The Russians are coming, and with a little help, they could cause a handful headaches for the Canadian Hockey League.
With the Subway Super Series set to get underway in under two weeks time, the Russians unveiled their roster for the event (To view Team QMJHL Rosters, click HERE. To view Team OHL Rosters, click HERE. To view Team WHL Rosters, click HERE).
Typically the Russians will add native players from whichever league they are facing. Last year for example, Belleville Bulls sniper and current Atlanta Thrashers forward Alexander Burmistrov suited up for Russia in their series against the OHL, or Calgary Hitmen import Misha Fisenko alongside his fellow Russians against the WHL.
Team Russia can use the help. They have won just six of 42 games in seven years of the event, which originated in 2003.
And one has to wonder if Kirill Kabanov be around to suit up for Russia, want to and be invited?
Quite the process of questions to answer when talking about just one player.
Kabanov’s storied history with the Russian program is incredible considering he is just 18 years of age.
A little over one year ago, Kabanov had just received clearance to play for the QMJHL’s Moncton Wildcats after the IIHF approved the disputed transfer of the then 17-year-old. The ruling was made after the IIHF failed to find any assertion that Kabanov had a valid contract with Salavat Yulayev Ufa of the KHL.
It was Kabanov’s desire to play in North America, and more specifically the NHL, that may have caused his country to sour on him.
Soon after Kabanov’s season got underway, it was halted with a sore wrist. The injury was enough to take him out of the Wildcat lineup and out of the running for a spot on a talented Russian squad. Healthy or not, Kabanov said he wouldn’t suit up for Russia at the 2010 World Junior Championship in Saskatchewan.
“I won’t play there, for sure,” Kabanov told Future Considerations last November. “The coach from the team, the National team, he don’t love me at all,” Kabanov continued, referring to head coach Vladimir Plyushchev, who eventually steered the club to a disappointing sixth.
“He loves his country and he’ll never love me anymore. He used to love me but now we have problems with me running from Russia so he’ll never take me on the national team while he’s coach.”
Needless to say, Kabanov’s injury quieted any rift between he and the Russian Hockey Federation. Kabanov’s involvement in the World Juniors was moot, considering he wouldn’t be medically cleared for the event.
While it wasn’t at the World Juniors, Kabanov did get his opportunity to represent Russia on the national stage.
In a curious move, Kabanov left the Wildcats during the QMJHL playoff run that saw Moncton capture their second league title. Instead of fighting alongside his CHL teammates, Kabanov arranged his release to join Russia’s entry in the Under-18 World Championship.
His tenure under head coach Mikhail Vasiliev was short lived, to say the least. Kabanov lasted just days as a member of the Russian squad.
“I removed him from the team because we thought Kabanov would help us, but he brought only confusion to the team,” Vasiliev told Sovietsky Sport in April. “Kabanov came and thought ‘Here I am, a star from Canada, who will save all,’ but it’s the team that wins rather than an individual player. Kabanov doesn’t know how to behave. Kavanov’s main problem is discipline. He does whatever he wants and not what coaches ask him.”
To this day, Kabanov maintains his innocence with Vasiliev, telling The Hockey News he was ejected from the club for taking a peanut from a bowl on the desk of his head coach.
“I took one peanut!” Kabanov said. “It wasn’t even his office, it was just a room in the dressing room.”
Whether or not the story is being told in its entirety may never been known. It just surrounds the New York Islanders prospect with more questioning.
Questions like, ‘Would Russia invite him back to an international event?’ or ‘Would Kabanov accept an invitation to represent Russia on the national stage?’
In August 2009, Kabanov stated he’d always be ready to go to war on the ice for Russia.
What will he say in November of 2010?
The answer could lie in the Russia/CHL Subway Series.
Aaron Vickers is the managing editor of Future Considerations and can be found on Twitter. For all the latest Future Considerations news and posts, follow FC’s Official Twitter Feed, on YouTube and on Facebook!