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Kirill Kabanov accepts your Facebook invitation to play pick-up hockey

Sep 28, 2011, 10:41 AM EDT

Kirill Kabanov Getty Images

New York Islanders prospect Kirill Kabanov is a player who has come with a lot of controversy since being drafted by the team in 2010. With a bit of a bad reputation but a world of talent, he was viewed as a player whose reputation and attitude could make him more of a headache for an organization than a helper.

Funny thing about Kabanov, however, is that it turns out he’s a pretty great kid as some Islanders fans got to find out last month courtesy of the most popular method of communication between people these days: Facebook.

New York Times Slap Shot’s Chris Botta tells the story about how Isles fan Shawn Shea asked his Facebook “friend” Kabanov to come on out to play some pick-up hockey with his friends in Massapequa and Kabanov, on a lark, took him up on it to create one hell of a story. It also goes to show that sometimes stories about a bad reputation can be changed by doing one extremely cool thing.

“One of the young players who showed up brought an extra pair of skates and Kirill put them on,” Shea said. “Supposedly it was his first time on rollerblades. His skill was amazing. He spent the whole night setting his teammates up. He got there at 8 and stayed until 10:30, when the people at the park told us it was long past time to shut out the lights.”

D’Andrea, the goalie, said: “I’ll really remember two generous things he did. Kirill passed up every chance to take a slap shot on me, possibly saving me a trip to the hospital. And when the game ended, he skated over to his goaltender, said she was the M.V.P. and gave her his hockey stick.”

The goalie was Elyssa Kaplan, a teenage Islanders fan from Dix Hills who read about the game of shinny on Facebook and asked her father for a ride to Massapequa.

“What a thrill it was for Elyssa,” Shea said. “What a night it was for all of us.”

What an incredible story to have and what a great, and very random thing to do this was for Kabanov. This story evokes the images of seeing Willie Mays playing stickball in the streets of Harlem with neighborhood kids back in the 1950s. Instead of stickball in the streets, it’s just a fun game of pick-up hockey on rollerblades.

Kabanov has a world of talent and while his reputation is a bit checkered, a story like this instantly makes him the kind of guy you want to root for to make it to the NHL. Seeing any pro athletes doing something like this is rare and to do so thank to a social media platform makes it even more impressive.

While many players won’t have anything to do with Facebook or Twitter to interact with fans, full marks for Kabanov for not just using it to keep in touch with fans but to interact with them in a very real and incredible way.

  1. canucks18 - Sep 28, 2011 at 10:52 AM

    This is a great story. It’s funny because how many of our so called “loveable” superstars would do this sort of thing now? Don’t get me wrong, they do tons of charity stuff etc but for a player to go out and play a pick up game is pretty cool.

    • stakex - Sep 28, 2011 at 11:13 AM

      Well there is a HUGE difference between a virtually un-known player doing something like this, and someone like say… Ovechkin or Crosby doing something like this. Star players have to be more careful with their interaction with fans, because you never know who might be out to hurt you or something.

      That might sound far fetched, but there is a long history of star athleats being attacked by crazy fans… something thats far less likely to happen to a virtual un-known. So you have to think to yourself, if you were a super star…. and someone invited you to play a game of hockey over Facebook (someone you didn’t know), would you really go and do it?

  2. jpelle82 - Sep 28, 2011 at 10:53 AM

    yeah this is great

  3. icelovinbrotha215 - Sep 28, 2011 at 10:56 AM

    That’s pretty sweet.

  4. bcisleman - Sep 28, 2011 at 12:56 PM

    Anybody who has followed Kirill’s season in Lewiston prior to the unfortunate demise of that franchise is not at all surprised by this episode. Kirill is a good kid who just needed a little maturity and a big step away from his dad’s influence. He will be a great hockey player and fan favorite.

    • theprospectpark - Oct 2, 2011 at 5:49 AM

      I covered Kabanov last season and everything that bcisleman said is true. Kabanov wound up being the Lewiston nominee for the QMJHL Humanitarian of the Year for going to local Lewiston schools and spending his free time working with the kids.

      Kabanov even better owned his mistakes and acknowledged what he did wrong. As one of those who was telling people to run as far away from Kabanov at the 2010 draft; I am more than happy to see Kabanov change for the better.

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