Kirill Tulupov - quickly becoming a fan favorite in Oklahoma City. Photo courtesy of Steven Christy Photography. All rights reserved.
Kirill Tulupov has had a pretty interesting week. It began in Cedar Park, Texas with a victory by the Barons over the Stars. In that game, Tulupov played well, and even flashed an over-zealous obscene gesture while confined to the penalty box. It was caught on in-house cameras, with which most shrugged off as a simple, careless moment. A few days later, Patricia at Artful Puck dropped one of the most impressive OIlers prospect interviews I've read in the last two years. Kirill came across, not surprisingly, as a very honest, sincere, and driven individual with whom fans certainly have grown to love. Following that interview, Tulupov was slapped with a two-game suspension for his actions in Cedar Park.This was an up-and-down kind of week for a guy that has suddenly burst on to the scene as both an important defensive role player in the Oilers pipeline, and a fan favorite.
Kirill Tulupov understands the weight of his newfound followers. He understands that with a lot of candor comes a healthy dose of responsibilty for both on and off ice activities. Thus, he has issued a statement concerning his gesture in the penalty box. This statement was not born out of a mandated team pursuit, but rather by Kirill personally. It is a statement to both fans in Oklahoma City, and those in Texas whom witnessed his middle finger gesture.
He has this to say:
Since my first days in hockey I was taught to respect the noble audience . I've been carrying along this attitude all my life. That's why the gesture that rightfully brought about your anger was under no way directed to you ! Moreover I admit that the very fact of that gesture was out of place anyway. It happened on the spur of the moment . I simply lost my temper. It was a mistake I'll never repeat in the future. I am deeply sorry to have hurt your feelings. This apology goes right out of my heart. God bless you all!
This apology was delivered directly to me from Kirill. And while it was absolutely necessary, Kirill knows his fans. He knows they want him to be as real as possible. A move like this, of a personal nature, further reveals Kirill the person, not just Kirill the hockey player.
In the world we live in, we cherish our sports figures. It's probably wrong, but we place them on a pedestal for what they do rather than who they are. Indeed, there is some merit in hard work, determination, and toughness, but those things come and go. Thus, character and integrity are often sacrificed along the way.
The beauty of minor league hockey is found in the embrace of the small market. In Oklahoma City, we have access to the players in a very personal way. We can shake Teemu Hartikainen's hand, chat up Linus Omark, and play XBOX360 with Alex Plante. It's a really incredible thing. However, you begin to empathize with them. You understand their sacrifices, determination, and heart. If you didn't catch the tone of the above statement from Tulupov, you might be missing something truly great. A sincere apology, from the heart, directed personally towards fans is a snapshot of the close hockey culture in Oklahoma. It's also a breathe of fresh air in a salty, half-hearted apology type of world.
Kirill wouldn't have issued that statement if he didn't genuinely mean it. And by doing so, he's certainly enhanced his relationship with fans, and likely gained a few more. For this, I applaud him. Thank you Kirill.