Hockey: Ukrainian players in Western Canada, in view of the University Games

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press

Needing a safe place to play before an international tournament, Ukraine’s U25 men’s hockey team found this place in Canada.

Canada West varsity teams will face Ukraine four times beginning Friday in Saskatoon against the Saskatchewan Huskies.

Ukraine will also face the Calgary Dinos on January 2, the Alberta Golden Bears on January 3 and the Manitoba Bisons on January 9.

The game involving the Bisons will be shown at Canada Life Centre, the home of the Winnipeg Jets.

Ukraine is preparing for the World University Games which will begin on January 11 in Lake Placid.

The Ukrainian team is housed on the University of Saskatchewan campus in Saskatoon.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24 shattered the lives of players who arrived in Canada.

Drone strikes often cause periods without electricity or running water for goalkeeper Savva Serdiuk and his teammates at club Sokol Kyiv.

« Russia hits our cities almost every day, » Serdiuk said during a recent conference call with Canadian media.

“Life has become very difficult. It’s pretty hard to play when these kinds of things happen. I love Canadians, they are really nice. They are just trying 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 main thing for us is to play our best hockey and show our style of play to Canadians, because Canadians love hockey, » said Serdiuk.

“The other thing is to raise funds for the people who got involved in this war.

“We want to help everyone in Ukraine, including small children who are playing trying to (one day become) professional players.

“We are trying to rebuild our arenas because we only have four that are functional.”

Adult men in Ukraine need permission to leave the country, in case they are needed to fight.

« All hockey players and coaches consider it their duty to play for the country, » said Ukrainian Hockey Federation general director Aleksandra Slatvytska.

Ukraine’s assistant coach is Dmitri Khristich, who spent 13 seasons in the NHL, including two with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

« It’s a very good opportunity to show that Ukrainian hockey is still alive and that Ukrainian hockey has a future, » Khristich said.

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