University of Saskatchewan Huskies to host Ukraine U25 hockey team


Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, sport has taken a back seat to the survival of athletes in this country.

At just 18 years old, Savva Serdiuk has become one of the most promising young goaltenders in the Ukrainian hockey system despite the conflict.

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Playing for Sokil Kyiv in the capital, Serdiuk saw the ice as an escape from the destruction and violence that gripped his country over the past year.

“Hockey is probably one of the best things in my life,” Serdiuk said. “When I come to training every morning, I feel like I’m in a safe place with my friends. I feel better when I train.

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Trapped in an active war zone, national team members like Serdiuk now have the ability to focus on their sport without the constant threat of attack.

Starting in late December, the Ukraine National Under-25 Team will travel to face off against four Canada West schools, starting with the University of Saskatchewan, as part of the Hockey Can’t Stop Tour. .

In addition to offering players the chance to prepare for the upcoming University Winter Games in a safe environment, the tour will serve as a fundraiser for the Canada-Ukraine Foundation and Save Ukrainian Hockey Dream, which will support refugees and young hockey players in war-torn regions. country.

“With every missile, with every attack, with every challenge, we have become stronger,” said Oleksandra Slatvytska, executive director and CEO of the Ukrainian Ice Hockey Federation. “We just believe more than we should be alive. If we are still alive, we are supposed to help those people who are dying right now.

Only four arenas are currently operational in Ukraine, with several arenas in Severodonetsk, Druzhkivka, Donetsk, Kramatorsk, Mariupol, Kherson and Melitopol destroyed or badly damaged.

Part of the money raised from tickets purchased for the games will go towards rebuilding and repairing these rinks.

Following the opener in Saskatoon against the Huskies on Dec. 30, the Ukrainian team will visit the University of Calgary Dinos, University of Alberta Golden Bears and University of Manitoba Bisons.

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“Sometimes we don’t have electricity or water and things like that,” Serdiuk said. “So it’s quite difficult to train in Ukraine. I’m really happy to go to Canada to play against some of the best teams there.

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Currently, Ukrainian men between the ages of 18 and 60 are not allowed to leave the country without special permission.

This series of exhibitions will give the U25 squad a chance to play together, while showing the world their courage according to assistant coach and former NHL forward Dimitri Khristich.

“This is a very good opportunity for us to show that Ukrainian hockey is still alive, that Ukrainian hockey has a future,” Khristich said. “That’s what we’re going to do and we’re really happy to have this opportunity.”

Huskies head coach Brandin Cote added that this is a rare opportunity for his players to not only face international competition, but also gain valuable perspective from their hockey peers.

“Having opportunities for our players to talk to the players on this team and really try to understand better what they’ve been through or what they’re going through on a family level, on a sporting level is going to be really beneficial to our players moving forward. in their lives,” Côté said. “To really appreciate what they have.”

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Tickets for the Dec. 30 game can be purchased on the Huskies’ website, while Canada West will be streaming games and also accepting donations.

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