The quote that headlines Joffrey Lupul’s latest blog for Ask Men.com reads as such: “The experience has made me much more sympathetic to the Russian players who come over to North America.”
It’s a reasoned, intelligent take on an experience that, as he openly admits, can be a struggle for players, as it’s been for him. The blog plays even better when juxtaposed with the comments Kyle Turris made earlier this week – two guys experienced some things that they weren’t accustomed to and didn’t necessarily care for, but Lupul, slightly older, was able to convey that without it feeling like an attack on his foreign country of choice. That the blog comes from a guy generally considered by hockey fans to be a bit of a “chotch,” (do people still say that?) should make a few people re-think their position on Lupul the Person.
To sum this up, I am having a hard time adapting to life in Russia. After being here for a month, I can tell you Russia is not Sweden, nor Finland, nor Germany. There are major cultural differences here. The experience has made me much more sympathetic to the Russian players who come over to North America. I have played with or against plenty who were supposed to take the NHL by storm and be instant superstars. I have, at times, been very critical of some of these players for many reasons, but now I can imagine — and sympathize with — how the 18- or 19-year-old Russian kids feel.
They’ve never left Russia, besides to play hockey. There are countless players (Zherdev and Radulov, to name a couple) who came overseas and were expected to carry an NHL team. This is just not possible (unless your name is Malkin or Ovechkin). It’s different hockey and a completely different way of life. I understand this now, and I wish in the past I was more accommodating and helpful to some of these players.
He carries on to tell the story of a couple young Russians who, without understanding how long a team road trip was going to be, showed up with only their shaving kits, and were forced to buy a week’s worth of clothes once they got on the road. They were treated poorly by their teammates (because hockey players are idiots), and he uses that to show how helpless he feels over in Russia. (He also explains that Russian women are hot but speak, um, Russian, so it’s sort of hopeless – going to school in Alaska, I can vouch for that feeling, as we had a number of Russian exchange students that were much like Lupul describes.)
Anyway, the main takeaway is that players coming over from foreign countries deserve a little more slack than we’re often willing to give. Your off-ice life absolutely affects your performance on it.
And also, maybe it’s time to pull Lupul out of his “kinda douchey” pigeon-hole. That was an impressive look at his situation from a step back. Some perspective is usually a good thing.