Igor Ulanov, Texas Ranger
Finally, it's here! It's time for the excerpts from Letter Writing Campaign Number One (the second will be coming shortly). To my knowledge, three people participated in the first one. A small number, but a noble effort. We'd like to see that number be quite a bit larger for our next campaign. Anyway, I'm finally delivering on my promise. Here are bits and pieces of our letters to Craig MacTavish back before the last two home games of the regular season...
"First let me say that I have held The Edmonton Oilers in high esteem for a very long time. I love the team when they win, and I love them even if they lose (only perhaps a little less so). I especially liked the Oilers during the 1999-2000, the 2000-2001, and the 2003-2004 seasons, as well as the current one. Now, you might ask, what do all of these seasons have in common? It’s simple: Igor Ulanov was part of the team.
While Mr. Ulanov may not have the largest fan base of all the players, he is the most senior and therefore is owed a certain amount of respect. Now I understand that part of the job is to keep the fans happy so that they will spend their hard-earned dollars on the hockey club. It seems that these days though people will jump on and off the bandwagon of any given player/team faster than you can utter the word “Krasnokamsk.” Ulanov may have a somewhat narrow fan base, but it is unwavering in its devotion. And the somewhat narrow fan base has not been happy as of late.
Igor Ulanov has proven that he has heart and that he is more than willing to put his various body parts in front of the puck. He is willing to make sacrifices for the team that has been keeping him in the press box. I know that everyone was excited about the shiny new defensemen acquired this season, and I agree that for the most part they have been a nice fit, but the honeymoon phase has ended. It’s time for the return of the 220 pounds of Krasnokamsk muscle to Rexall’s alluring ice surface.
The addition of Sergei Samsonov to the team has been a good one, but in terms of country of origin, one is the loneliest number. Two Russian-born players are better than one.
I know that this letter has arrived very late and that you will likely not read it before regular season ends. Or ever, for that matter. But I have thrown together a last minute letter writing campaign to plead the case of Igor fans everywhere. You may only receive one or two more letters concerning this subject, but it is exam time. For every letter you get in writing, there are another five people who would have written one had they had the time. Thank you for your time."
Don E. Coyote:
"I am writing you to express my concern about a matter of great importance. It is my firm belief that Igor Ulanov should play in the final two games of this 2006 regular season.
I believe that in these disheartening times, the Oilers need a defenseman who plays with heart. Igor certainly plays with all of his, every single game. He may not be the most technically gifted player, but he has a deep understanding and love of the game of hockey, not to mention a fierce loyalty to our team.
It is never a mistake to have the seasoned hand of a veteran on our side, especially when so much is at stake, as it is right now. I hope you will take this letter into consideration when creating the roster for those final two games.
Thank you for your time."
"Like many Oilers fans (and, I’m sure, like you), I have been distraught by the team’s play of late. The team has being playing indifferently and hasn’t looked like it wanted to be in the playoffs. Some people are saying that this is your fault, but I know that no matter how good a coach is, it’s the players who have to perform, and yours aren’t.
There are things a coach can do, however. The team has plenty of skill, but the character’s been lacking. The team needs some veteran leadership. More specifically, the team needs some veteran Russian leadership.
I know that Igor Ulanov isn’t generally looked upon as one of the team’s leaders – I mean, you’ve got four players who have worn the C on NHL teams and you’ve got Ryan “Captain Canada” Smith [sic]. But I can’t help but to notice that this leadership isn’t getting the job done.
Igor Ulanov has played more NHL games than any other Oiler except Jason Smith, Chris Pronger, and Radek Dvorak. He’s been in the league longer than any other Oiler. He’s the most senior in years. None of these guarantees that he can turn things around for the team, but it’s not like anybody else has stepped up to the plate.
And you know what else? Igor Ulanov cares about the Oilers. They’re the team he wants to play for. After Glen Sather lured him to New York after his first stint with the Oilers, he came back here for another go round. When so much of the roster is taken up by short-term rental players like Spacek, Tarnstron [sic], Peca, Roloson, and Samsonov – and don’t get me wrong, all of those guys have been, in their own ways, pretty useful pickups – who have no long-term commitment to the club, we need to inject some Russian passion.
Have you ever seen that website where they have all of those “facts” about Chuck Norris? Like “Chuck Norris does not sleep. He waits.” and “The Chief Export of Chuck Norris is pain.”? Well, Igor Ulanov has said that pain doesn’t hurt – that sounds like something that’s straight off of that site! Except it’s not about Chuck Norris, who’s down in Texas preaching the gospel and kicking bad guys’ ass, it’s about Igor Ulanov, who’s waiting right there in the press box for his chance to shine anew.
Do you remember that night that he scored two goals? Do you remember the fans chanting “Igor! Igor!” whenever he touched the puck? Hasn’t that been lacking from home games lately?
I’m not going to tell you how to run your team – you’re the NHL coach, after all, and I’m not. But even though I’m not a connoisseur of the game on the level of you or Scotty Bowman, I know what I like. And I don’t like the play of the Oilers lately. And I do like Igor Ulanov.
You know what to do. Give us a reason to cheer."
Alright, so by "bits and pieces" I clearly meant "every letter in its entirety." Also, I'm aware that it looks like I don't know how to quote multi-paragraph creations. Not so. I just don't care. I also think that Igor Ulanov is the most capable of dining on shark. San Jose shark. For that reason alone, Russia should take over Sweden and a select area of Michigan, USA.