The night begins when the Oklahoma City Barons hit the ice for their pre-game warmups. If #8 crosses the plane and skates meet ice, electricity immediately surges through a specific area inside the Cox Convention Center. Smiles and high fives are exchanged. Jerseys not already being worn are put in place; a large banner gets attached to the sections seat railing.
OKC hockey fans and members of the opposing team are getting ready to meet a very vocal group within these small confines, known as Tulupov’s Army. While diehard Barons and hockey fans in general, the focus is on one Barons player, Kirill Tulupov. Started at the beginning of the season, they picked up steam by continuously growing as a group. They are even starting to be recognized outside of the Cox Center.
Kirill’s stint this year with the Barons has him sitting on a 1 goal, 7 assists in 31 games record as of yet. That one goal proved to be the game winner against Abbotsford. First drafted by the New Jersey Devils in 2006, he spent the last year in the KHL before accepting the Edmonton Oilers tryout offer. He has become a presence on the ice for OKC, making himself known in the AHL circles.
We decided it would be a bit fun to put all our thoughts together on the group and our parts in it. This is a very strong hockey loving group, whether new or an old-timer to the game. It was interesting to discover all the responses that matched each other. While we may look a we bit crazy in section 323, all are very serious about their hockey and their Barons team.
*I wasn’t sure at first about adding my own, but why not right?
So without further ado, meet the members of the Oklahoma City Barons’ Tulupov’s Army:
(Name redacted)– Career military officer, Currently serving as the Commanding Officer for a Joint Service unit in Oklahoma City
Patricia– I am an Art historian, and in my spare time, a writer who absolutely loves hockey.
Bob–Jet engine mech on B-52’s
Linda– Stay at home mom
Dawn– help desk/tech support specialist
Kelli– instructor at Valir Rehab Hospital
How long have you been a hockey fan?
(NR): my entire life. I actually remember watching the “Miracle on Ice” when USA beat USSR in 1980.
Laura: Since I was a kid — grew up in Houston, but my dad played rec league ever since I was very little, so grew up watching him play & also had gone to some games as a baby. Watched whenever it was on TV in Houston, which surprisingly actually happened sometimes. Then the Aeros came to town & it was ON
Linda: Since I was a kid. My first live game was USA vs Russia at the Chicago Stadium with my dad. It was pretty much a done deal after that.
Kelli: I didn’t become a hockey fan until 2006 when a friend gave Noah and me some free tickets to a Blazers’ game. We were both sold! I appreciated the skill, speed and strength. Hockey is visceral and aesthetic at the same time. Noah picked up the rules of the game faster than I! Having an AHL team here made me love the sport even more.
Dawn: I have been a fanatical diehard obsessed hockey fan since the Winter Olympics of 2010
Rusty: 25 years
Bob: Since I was 8, 44 years ago
Patricia: Years and years…. 😉
Do you have a favorite team and/or player besides the Oklahoma City Barons?
(NR): Jeff Petry (Oilers), Justin Abdelkader (Red Wings) and as of 25 March 2012, Torey Krug (MSU) who now just signed with Boston (I wish he hadn’t).
Laura: AEROS! And the US Women’s National team. Favorite players (past & present) include Gordie Howe, Derek Boogaard, Marty Brodeur, Ryan Miller, Ron Hextall, Cammi Granato, Angela Ruggiero, and Julie Chu.
Linda: I have various favorite teams from all the various hockey leagues. Mainly the Chicago Blackhawks and lately I’ve become too involved with the OU hockey team, lol. I don’t really “fixate” on a player as a favorite, but I do tend to NOT root for a team because of a player I hate. Yea I know, it’s weird.
Kelli: My son and I both love the Leafs and my personal favorite player (other than Tuley or any of the other Barons) is Ryan Jones because he plays all out, all the time, just like O’Marra (a huge fav of mine).
Dawn: Boston Bruins and Patrice Bergeron
Rusty: San Jose Sharks; Patrick Marleau
Bob: Detroit Redwings, Nick Lindstrom
Patricia: I enjoy all great hockey and never limit myself to just one team or one player. For teams, I enjoy following the Vancouver Canucks, Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins, Nashville Predators, Oklahoma City Barons, Chicago Wolves, as well as others. And for players, I greatly enjoy watching the Sedins, Kesler, Crosby, Ovechkin, Malkin, Weber, Tootoo, Rinne and Tulupov. – He fits very nicely in there, doesn’t he!
What would you say is the moment that made you a Tulupov fan?
(NR): Preseason practices and tryouts. I went to several of the tryout camp practices and he stood out as a physical player and played in a style that I have grown up enjoying.
Laura: JUDO FLIP. But wait, you say, I already was a fan before that! Well, yes, I was. And that’s how awesome the judo flip is. It WENT BACK IN TIME and made me a Tully fan before it even happened.
Linda: I think it started with the interview. I liked him enough before that, but after the interview and knowing the story behind it, I just sort of fell (not in that way). Shortly after that was the Abbotsford throw & beat down & resulting toss from the game. The very methodical way he annihilates the aggressor with such ease & lack of thuggery is really beautiful to watch.
Kelli: I became a Tuley fan when I saw his first game as a Baron; he played with fire…The STH Christmas party sealed the deal when he came and started shooting hoops beside me; he was very nice and so articulate!
Dawn: The moment that he sneaked into Patricia Teter’s photo and popped his head around Lenevue. It was perfect.
Rusty: The day he signed his contract but was a scratch. Came up to sit with his fans for a while. I’ll root for anyone who takes care of his fans like that!
Bob: When I first met him…..
Patricia: There were two moments actually. At the beginning of the season while I was photographing David LeNeveu’s mask at the Barons’ Open House on October 11, 2011, a player laughingly peered over LeNeveu’s shoulder as I focused to take the shot. The player darted off before I could take the photo but I asked him to return in order to capture that very funny moment. That photograph of Kirill Tulupov photobombing David LeNeveu became an instant hit with Barons and Oilers fans. Later in November I interviewed Kirill and within a few minutes he had thoroughly impressed me with his eloquence, rare outspoken honesty and a wonderful sense of humor. It is one thing to watch players on the ice in practice or a game, but entirely another to talk to them about their life, their career, and their hopes and dreams. It adds a completely new perspective on the game of hockey – a personal perspective and now,
Click HERE to read the great Kirill interview!!
What are some of the things that keep you in, that you enjoy the most, about being in the Army?
(NR): I couldn’t leave the Tulupov Army even if I wanted to!! On a serious note, I like that we are making an impact for him. When he is famous and playing in the NHL fulltime, he will always remember his Army in OKC. He is personable and I enjoy talking with/to him.
Laura: The camaraderie.
Linda: being able to be kind of crazy and silly. I wouldn’t yell, etc sitting alone, so I guess you can blame the mob. That said, games are usually more fun when you can sit with friends & cheer as one.
Kelli: I like being a member of the Army because I like the people in it and it just feels right.
Dawn: The fact that we all share the same ideas and love the style of Tully’s stellar defense… and the mere fact we just like the kid. 🙂
Rusty: Good friends cheering for a good team and a good player
Bob: We have a good group of people
Patricia: The greatest gratification I have received from our Tulupov Army cheering section is that it has made people – fans and media alike – much more aware of Kirill Tulupov. The Barons’ radio announcer Jim Byers greatly enjoys a shout out to the Army when Tulupov is in the lineup, and over the course of the season, Tulupov’s cheering section has expanded far beyond the small group seated behind the banner in section 323 row A. Yes, Tulupov thinks we are a bit crazy at times, but it has made the season all the more fun!
Bob gets full credit for the Tulupov Army banner – he had it created for those of us seated in section 323 and as a result more fans have now gravitated to the section and cheer for Tuly. We encourage and even DARE other fans to make their own banners for favorite players next season. They all play with such heart and soul, and every one of them deserves their own cheering section. Get that “Who’s House Is This? It’s Tanner’s House!” banner made! Show these guys that OKC fans care and we will be fans for their entire career, no matter where they land.
What impact has the formation of this cheering section had on your Barons fan experience this year? (made it more fun, intimate/involved, took away from watching whole team?)
(NR): I don’t think we cheer ONLY for him…but largely for him. I like having the group to cheer with. It definitely adds a festive element to watching the game. I also think that we are bringing more enjoyment to other fans. I have personally met others (that didn’t recognize me) that are STHs that made mention that they enjoy the Tulupov’s Army. Others have mentioned that they think we could use more similar groups.
Laura: Makes it easier to find my friends, being as y’all are all sitting behind a big-ass banner. 😉
Linda: It’s made it more involved for me. last year I pretty much went alone or random first timers. This year, with the group, I have people I can talk to about the Barons or hockey in general. It has definitely brought new friends into my life. For the most part, that’s a good thing haha.
Kelli: I think rooting for a certain player makes the hockey experience more personal and energetic.
Dawn: I definitely feel like I am a part of something other than just being in the stands and clapping along with the rest of the fans at key moments.
Rusty: The Tulupov Wave!
Bob: We have been mentioned a lot on the radio by jim Byers!!!!
Patricia: We cheer for the entire team, without a doubt, however it has been a great experience to cheer for and support an individual player throughout the entire season. Until this past year I have always been an NHL fan – enjoying the game and cheering for an entire team, but AHL fans are very lucky to enjoy a much closer connection to a team, their players and fans. Cheering for Kirill Tulupov this season has made it much more exciting on a multitude of levels – it has created a bond between a group of fans who did not necessarily know each other at the beginning of the season and who will be friends for life now. It also created a bond with an individual hockey player – a player who we admire and will continue to watch throughout his long hockey career, no matter where he lands in the future. The group laughs and jokes about which team Tulupov will play for in the future, which team would suit him the best, and how we will all meet up to watch Tulupov play someday at the NHL level. It is only a matter of time.
Do you have a prize Tulupov possession?
(NR): I’ll give you one guess! My game-worn jersey.
Laura: My Cyrillic “TULUPOV” sweater & my “10 For Being Russian” puck.
Linda: I guess it would have to be his game worn New Jersey Devils jersey. I’ve never liked a player enough o buy something like that & really never expected to. granted, if it wasn’t for the Army, I probably still wouldn’t have lol.
Kelli: I have a signed shirt by Tuley, but I love Noah’s signed, broken hockey stick and signed Russian puck.
Dawn: I am still working on getting a prized possession.. I really need to work fast so that I can get it signed.. whatever “it” is.
Rusty: I don’t got nothin’. You rock stars bought up all the cool sweaters! 😉
Bob: Do not have one
Patricia: My most prized possession is Kirill Tulupov’s authentic pre-season worn 2007-2008 New Jersey Devils number 41 red jersey – now signed and inscribed. I also have a signed Barons puck and someday I will have another NHL Tulupov jersey in my possession.
Do you normally consider yourself a “player fan” or a “team fan”?
(NR): Both. First and foremost… TEAM. My Wings and Spartans. Then, I follow Spartans as they go into the NHL–so players if they came from MSU.
Laura: Team. There are players I like too, even when I don’t like their teams. But generally I’m rooting for clothes.
Linda: I am a team fan basically. There are some players I like, but I have a hard time being a fan of a single player unless, like Tulupov, I can actually get to know them.
Kelli: I tend to be a “player” person rather than a “team” person, but I love the Barons as a team.
Dawn: I am normally a “team fan”. I typically don’t like to single out one player that I cheer for the most.
Bob: Tean fan
Patricia: I am a bit of both – there are some teams I am primarily a fan of the team, and I am also a fan of individual players from various teams. I appreciate many individual players from various teams who are not on the teams I cheer for at all.
With the regular season ending and playoffs starting, do you have a favorite moment from this years Barons team?
(NR): “Ten minutes for being Russian”
Laura: The aforementioned judo flip, for one! Vandevelde’s 1.00 shooting percentage up with the Oilers was nice too (as was him telling their TV guys how to pronounce his name). I do NOT appreciate the Barons making the Aeros their bitch this season pretty much all the time, but what are you gonna do?
Linda: It’s tough to choose, we’ve had some great moments, the Paajarvi shoot out goal for example. I think the best all around game experience was the “10 minutes for being Russian game” against the Texas Stars. The first time the group sat on the glass, Tully was finally playing a game and no kids! Harassing the ref who tossed Kirill for really no reason with a game misconduct, riling everyone up. The puck flying into us and destroying laura’s drink, the drunken idiots smack talking about drinking to much……sigh…..good times!
Kelli: One of my favorite Barons’ moment was, of course, the Tuley flip. I also loved the Paajarvi shootout goal; the March 9th game against Milwaukee was one game that felt like a playoff moment with a 2-1 SOW.
Dawn: I have several.. so hard to pick but since I loathe to the very core of my soul the Stars I would have to say the day that Tully rag-dolled Nick Layton..
Rusty: Kicking the crap out of Texas at the home opener!
Bob: Tulupov scoring his first goal
Patricia: It is difficult to pinpoint just one moment because this OKC Barons season has been a very exciting run, so I will just focus on favorite Tulupov moments. For Tulupov fans, I think it has to be his fight on November 18th, 2011 in the Abbotsford game against Bauma in which he was ejected due to the unfastened fight strap, and his second fight on December 2nd, in the game against the San Antonio Rampage with Sutherby, and a securely fastened fight strap. As he was skated off the ice by a linesman, he raised both arms in victory and acknowledged the loud cheering fans. And then there is the most important Tulupov moment – his first AHL goal in Abbotsford on February 11, 2012. What an amazingly powerful slap shot from the point. I cannot help but compare Tulupov’s slap shots to those hammering shots of Sami Salo, from the Vancouver Canucks. Tulupov certainly has the skill and the potential – now we await the opportunity.
Linda: I am grateful and amazed how one player managed to bring a group of people together the way he has. I am now way to involved in this game 😉
Laura: In closing, I should also mention that the rodeo’s coming to town. 😛
Dawn: And btw.. what exactly happened to Layton.. he isn’t on the AHL or NHL Stars roster?
Kelli: What I really admire about Tuley as a person is his openness and his mischieviousness; what I love about Tuley as a player is his passion…
Patricia: Forever more, the game has been altered for me. It is perhaps a bit more heart-wrenching now. A bit more painful, but it is also much more intense and fun. And for that, I thank Kirill Tulupov. I am a fan for life.