Canadian Men’s College Hockey Teams Safely Prepare Ukraine Under-25 Team
The Ukrainian men’s under-25 hockey team needed a safe place to play before an international tournament and found it in Canada.
The Canada West conference men’s varsity hockey teams will host Ukraine in a four-game series starting Friday against the Saskatchewan Huskies in Saskatoon.
Ukraine will next meet the Calgary Dinos on Jan. 2, the Alberta Golden Bears on Jan. 3 and the Manitoba Bisons on Jan. 9. Manitoba’s game will be played at Winnipeg’s NHL arena, the Canada Life Centre.
Ukraine is preparing for the World University Games starting January 11 in Lake Placid, NY
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24 shattered the lives of players who arrived in Canada.
Drone strikes make spells without electricity and water common for goalkeeper Savva Serdiuk and his teammates at the Sokol Kyiv club.
« Russia is hitting our cities almost every day, » Serdiuk said in a recent conference call with Canadian media.
« It’s really difficult to live our lives. It’s quite difficult to play when these kinds of things are happening.
« I love the Canadians because they are really nice. They just try to help us. It means a lot to me to go and play in Canada. »
Proceeds from Hockey Can’t Stop Tour ticket sales will go to the Canada/Ukraine Foundation, which in turn will donate money to the Save Ukrainian Hockey Dream established by the Ukrainian Hockey Federation.
« The bottom line for us is to play our best hockey and show our hockey to Canadians because Canadians love hockey, » Serdiuk said.
« The other thing is to raise money for the people who got involved in this war, and to help everyone in Ukraine, and the little kids who play in Ukraine trying to be professional players, and in trying to rebuild our arenas in Ukraine, because we only have four arenas working right now. »
Adult males from Ukraine need permission to leave the country in case they are needed to fight.
« All hockey players and coaches consider it their state duty to play for the country, » said Ukrainian Hockey Federation general director Aleksandra Slatvytska.
« Sport is also a very important part of any state and social life. »
Dmitri Khristich, including 13 seasons in the NHL including two with the Toronto Maple Leafs, is the assistant coach of Ukraine.
« It’s a very good opportunity to show that Ukrainian hockey is still alive and that Ukrainian hockey has a future, » Khristich said.
A conversation between Slatvytska and TSN commentator Gord Miller at the World Junior Men’s Hockey Championship in August in Edmonton planted the seed for the tour.
« She was talking about the difficulty of trying to get the team together for the World University Games in Lake Placid in January, » Miller said.
« What Aleksandra and I talked about was trying to find a safe place to train and a way for them to play games. »
Schools in Canada West quickly followed suit, he said.
The Huskies host Ukraine at the Merlis Belsher Place campus.
« I know in Saskatchewan here, and across western Canada, there’s a very large Ukrainian population, » Huskies coach Brandin Cote said.
Ukraine will meet the Dinos at Father David Bauer Arena in Calgary on Monday, followed by the Golden Bears the following night at Clare Drake Arena in Edmonton.
True North Sports and Entertainment president Mark Chipman has granted a request to make the Canada Life Center, home of the NHL Jets, available for Game 4, Bisons head coach Mike Sirant said.
« It will be a great experience for Ukrainians and our student-athletes, » said Sirant.
Games will be streamed on Canada West TV.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on December 29, 2022.
Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press