Oilers forward Nail Yakupov routinely helps out homeless individuals
Oilers forward Nail Yakupov celebrates his goal against the Boston Bruins during first period NHL action at Rexall Place in Edmonton on Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015. Ian Kucerak/Edmonton Sun
You know the old expression cold hands, warm heart?
Well, it’s not necessarily true.
Nail Yakupov’s hands are as hot right now as they’ve ever been — 13 points in the last 17 games — but his generosity and compassion off the ice are an even better story.
While Yakupov was extending his point streak to four straight games in Monday’s 4-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs, a homeless inner city man who couldn’t care less about the score was already praising his new Russian hero.
Yakupov, in a chance meeting outside a downtown hotel Sunday, bought the man dinner and paid for a hotel room for the night.
The feel good story caught fire on social media, but to Yakupov it was no big deal, just the kind of gesture the 21-year-old winger makes on an almost daily basis as he tries to help out people who need a break.
“Nothing (bad) can happen if I give some money or buy something for people who can’t buy anything at that time,” he said after practice Tuesday. “I think it’s important. I just try and help people out.
“I usually like to give money to homeless, guys sitting with animals, cats or dogs. It’s a touching moment. I can’t just walk by. I always like to give them something to buy some food.”
Normally Yakupov approaches the person in need, but Sunday’s meeting was kind of the other way around.
“He just jumped at my car and said open the window.”
Normally when a homeless guy knocks on your window you lock the door and speed away, but Yakupov stopped and listened to what the man had to say.
He wanted a coffee. When Yakupov pressed for more information, he discovered that yes, the man was hungry, too.
So he took him inside the hotel restaurant, told security he was his guest, let him to order whatever he wanted, paid the bill and left.
“I thought they’d kick him out because he had dirty hands. So the first thing I told him was go wash your hands and I told security don’t kick him out, it will be fine.
“It took two minutes, it’s not that hard. For you it’s nothing if you’re going to lose a couple hundred bucks, but for them it’s huge.”
The homeless man, who didn’t know Yakupov was a hockey player, asked if by chance he could spare money for a room. Yakupov gave him the last $35 he had on him.
“People told me he actually went to a hotel and stayed there for one night, had a shower,” said Yakupov, who likes to make sure the money is being used the right way.
“I asked him if he wanted a drink (of alcohol) and he said no I’m not drinking. It was good to hear. I don’t give to anyone, like drunk people who are maybe doing other things (drugs). He wasn’t drinking. He just asked me for coffee.”
Most of his charitable endeavours are quick hits like stopping on the street to help out a homeless kid or handing a bill to one of those people who camp out on a meridian at red lights.
“I jump out, give them 20 bucks and jump back in. Most of the time on Whyte Avenue. There’s a guy with a dog. He’s not a drunk he’s just trying to eat.”
Yakupov says his charitable instinct comes from his parents, and when he signed for NHL money, it was his mother who told him to pay it forward.
“I like to do things like that in the summer, a little bigger, helping out sick kids in the hospital. It’s always good. I think a player’s gotta do that.
“Those people are looking for some help. Most of the time they have no money for it and they need some support.
“You can’t help everyone in the world, but you have to try a little bit, at least.”
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