‘We Are Not Alone In Our Fight’: Ukraine U-18 National Men’s Team Invited to Calgary (The Hockey News)

Members of a hockey team wearing yellow jerseys and medals.

Members of Ukraine’s U-18 national men’s team. Courtesy: Ice Hockey Federation of Ukraine

The Calgary Canucks Jr. A club has invited the Ukraine U-18 national men’s squad to Calgary for a training camp and two exhibition games against the Alberta U-18 all-star team.

This will prepare the young players for the upcoming 2024 IIHF U-18 Div. 1-A World Championship.

“We are trying to spread the word about this camp for everyone who are around over there (Alberta and North America) that Ukraine still exists as a country, that we are still independent,” said Aleksandra Slatvytska, the vice president of the Ice Hockey Federation of Ukraine.

“We still have so many people who are fighting for our borders. We still have so many people who are staying on our free territory.”

Slatvytska added that Ukraine needs continued support from the whole world in order to return to peace. Despite the horrors the country has been facing for the past two years due to the war, their national team still exists.

“We still are playing hockey,” she said.

A hockey player in a yellow jersey competes in a game with a teammate not far behind him.

Ukraine’s U-18 national men’s team competes in a match. Courtesy: Ice Hockey Federation of Ukraine

One of those players is Danylo Bereza, who moved to Canada from Ukraine about a year ago and is now playing for the Delta Ice Hawks in British Columbia.

“I can’t even imagine my life without hockey,” Bereza said. “It’s like part of my identity. All I think all the time is hockey.”

Slatvytska thanked the support Ukraine has received from the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) and the National Hockey League Players Association (NHLPA), which include $100,000 worth of donated hockey equipment.

“All this collaboration means that we are not alone in our fight.” she said.

Sandy Edmonstone, chairman and president of the AJHL’s Calgary Canucks, said many players have been forced to go abroad to pursue their hockey dreams in the wake of several lost hockey rinks in Ukraine due to the conflict in the country. That’s where the Calgary Canucks come in.

Edmonstone said there are lots of Ukrainians living in Canada, particularly in Calgary and British Columbia.

“The Calgary Canucks are a community-owned team, and they don’t survive without the support of the community,” he said. “So, for us to be able to pay this back, it’s an honor.”

Canucks coach-GM Brad Moran said their organization hopes to help the Ukrainian players prepare for their tournament.

“It’s the values that our team stands for,” said Moran. “To be able to give back to the community and the international community.”

The Calgary Canucks said they have received community support through sponsorships, game attendance and donations. Event sponsors include but are not limited to Adrenaline Source for Sports, Innovecs and Tim Hortons.

Hockey 4 Ukraine, a collaboration between the Calgary Canucks and TSN sportscaster Gord Miller, supports the Ukrainian Ice Hockey Federation and the Ukrainian Hockey Dream Foundation. Proceeds support the U-18 Ukraine national team development camp and Ukrainian Hockey Dream Foundation, which supports Ukrainian children’s hockey schools to stay in operation in Central and Western Ukraine.

Donations through Sport for Calgary can be made at sportforcalgary.com/donate.

“Hockey Calgary is excited to be partnering with the Calgary Canucks to bring some international competition to Calgary,” said Hockey Calgary executive director Kevin Kobelka. “This is a great experience for our U-18 AAA as they complete their minor hockey careers. We look forward to an exciting game, and I am confident that the team compiled will provide excellent competition for the Ukraine U-18 team.”

Ruslan Borysenko, assistant coach of the Ukraine U-18 national team, is thankful for the opportunity to play and practise in Canada.

“It’s a great opportunity for them to grow as a player and it’s always great for them just to grow, to develop all the skills. Like stickhandling, skating (and) everything.” Borysenko said.

He also said player chemistry off the ice translates to chemistry on the ice. Players could understand their peers intuitively without having to speak or look at each other, such as when they pass the puck.

Oleksandr Levshyn

Oleksandr Levshyn, a goaltender for Ukraine’s U-18 national team. Courtesy: Ice Hockey Federation of Ukraine

Oleksandr Levshyn, a goaltender for the Ukraine U-18 National Team who currently plays in Toronto, said it will be good to make connections with the Ukrainian-Canadians in Alberta.

A very talented young goalie, Levshyn played in five games in the 2022-23 season U-18 World Championship in Div. 1-A and notched a .900 save percentage.

“Every night, we adjust to another town and communicate with another team,” said Levshyn. “I can make new friends because our hockey world is not too big. We all communicate, (and) we make new friends.”