Rinat Valiev had to wait nearly a month for a Canadian visa so he could play for the Kootenay Ice, and then this happened.
On Sunday, in just his second Western Hockey League game with the Ice, the 18-year-old Russian had an embarrassing moment during the Edmonton Oil Kings. Perhaps it should not have been on him, though. Ice goalie Mackenzie Scapegoat — pardon me, Mackenzie Skapski — left a gaping five-hole and clearly was not prepared when Valiev, while being harried by Edmonton's Edgars Kulda, shot the puck at the net instead of behind it.
What a welcome to the WHL moment. Especially since Valiev hails from Nizhnekamsk, Russia, which presumably means he was extra excited to play in the same rink as the Edmonton Oilers' Nail Yakupov, who also hails from that city.
The Ice still managed a regulation tie in the game before Edmonton won 3-2. The 'loser point' gave Kootenay 3-of-4 possible points from a weekend series against the Oil Kings. Valiev also had an assist during the victory in the first game, so it's not like he and Skapski's gaffe cost the team all that much.
Valiev was among the many Russian teenage hockey players whose season was affected by the Canadian Foreign Service strike that was recently resolved. The backlog in the wait time to receive a visa to enter Canada meant that he missed Kootenay's first 11 games of the season.
To see that happen to him in his first weekend in the WHL is heartbreaking. Just not as much as it humourous.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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