The Winnipeg Dynamo Kyiv Soccer Club is marking 20 years of being dynamite on the local soccer scene.
The North Kildonan-based club began life in the Manitoba Central Soccer League’s third division, but was purchased by current president Peter Manastyrsky, Taras Maluzynsky, Ray Honeybun, and Jerry Pniowsky in 1994. Before making the purchase, the four were involved in the Institute Prosvita Athletic Club.
In its history, the team recorded first-place finishes in its division in 1994 and 1996 in the now-defunct Manitoba Central Soccer League, and in 2009 in the Manitoba Major Soccer League.
At the time of its inception, teams were divvied up primarily based on nationalities — and Manastyrsky felt Ukraine hadn’t quite made its mark in Winnipeg.
"There was really no Ukrainian team as such that had a Ukrainian name," he said. "I tried to get interested players from a Ukrainian background to play, be they Canadian or guys that had just came to Canada."
Manastyrsky has strived to make the club about more than just the results on the pitch, as it held the Ukrainian Youth Cup for players aged 11 to 17 at Gateway Recreation Centre for 10 seasons. The tournament was not held this spring due to conflicts, though organizers hope to start it up again.
"We decided to entertain youth throughout this city and this province," said Manastyrsky, noting the club has also organized soccer clinics.
In order to mark the anniversary this year, the club will be involved in the Ukraine-Kyiv Pavilion at Folklorama. The pavilion will run from Aug. 11 to 17 at Garden City Collegiate Institute (711 Jefferson Ave.)
As well, the anniversary will add a little extra weight to Ukrainian Day in the Park, the annual meeting of Dynamo Kyiv and IPAC Ukraine, which plays in Major Senior Division 3. The game used to be held at Assiniboine Park, but will be held this year at Kildonan Park on Aug. 24 at 1 p.m.
Former player Cristian Molina joined the team in 2003, but moved into coaching after an injury, serving as the head coach in 2008.
Molina, who is of Argentinian descent, helped organize the youth tournament and has been glad to get involved in the Ukrainian community.
"I consider myself Ukrainian now," he said. "After 10 years with Peter, I always joke I’m a long-lost son."
He noted Manastyrsky often told stories of Ukraine and celebrated his heritage, but also made strides to dispel what Molina calls the cliquey nature of sports by inviting players from various nationalities to join.
For his efforts, Manastyrsky was honoured by the St. Nicholas Men’s Club as the Ukrainian Sportsman of the Year in 2012. Past winners include hockey players Bill Mosienko, Dale Hawerchuk and Morris Lukowich, volleyball player Scott Koskie, golfer Glen Hnatiuk, and curler Kerry Burtnyk. Team and club manager Garry Kuchirka, who has been involved with the team since 2003, said Manastyrsky has been a major force behind the team.
"Without him and his tireless efforts, I don’t think that Dynamo would have succeeded," he said.
Kuchirka noted head coach Linton Sellen, trainer Michael Cembroski, equipment manager Joey Saindon, past coach Kieran Hunter, past medical advisor Dr. Gerard Scott-Herridge, past secretary-treasurer Nestor Budyk, and Maluzynsky also played big roles over the past 20 years.
The team has struggled in the Premier Senior Division 2, with a 2-5-1 record as of June 21, though seven-year veteran Luke Vanderhooft is a bright spot, sitting tied for third in scoring with seven tallies through those eight games.
In the future, Manastyrsky hopes to attend Ukrainian-based tournaments in places like Chicago, Detroit, or Toronto.