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.