Ukrainian national hockey team coming to Manitoba for fundraising game
The Ukrainian national U25 hockey team will be coming to Manitoba to play an exhibition game against the University of Mantioba Bisons. The game is part of the Hockey Can’t Stop Tour, with the Ukrainian team playing universities across western Canada.
The tour includes games against the Universities of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Calgary and Manitoba, with Manitoba’s game against Ukraine set for Jan. 9 (7 p.m.) at the Canada Life Centre (formerly the MTS Centre) in downtown Winnipeg. The Manitoba stop is the final game of the tour.
Proceeds from ticket sales will be going to the Canada/Ukraine foundation, which supports humanitarian groups in both countries. The foundation plans to distribute most of the raised money to the Save Ukrainian Hockey Dream fund, which is dedicated to help rebuild hockey infrastructure in the war-torn country.
The charity is operated by the Ice Hockey Federation of Ukraine and the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF).
The game was planned to take at the Max Bell Centre on the University of Manitoba campus, but Winnipeg Jets owner Mark Chipman was eager to provide a bigger venue after speaking with Bisons head coach Mike Sirant.
“He was all in. That’s just the type of person Mark Chipman is, he’s one of the classiest people in the game, and he’s all about serving communities,” Sirant said in a University of Manitoba press release.
“We’re going to not only put on a game, but a real cultural event. It will be a tremendous experience for the Ukrainians and our student-athletes. It’s going to be a different style of play.”
This season marks the end of Sirant’s over 30-year tenure with the University of Manitoba men’s hockey team, as he announced his plans to retire from the program Dec. 15. Sirant is the winningest men’s hockey head coach in Bisons history.
A news release from the Canada Life Centre notes for many Ukrainian players, the war forced them to pick up a gun instead of a hockey stick.
“It’s kind of escape for me, because hockey is one of the best things in my life,” Ukraine goalie Savva Serdiuk said in the Bisons release.
“When I come to practice every morning, I feel like I’m in a safe place. It just means a lot being able to play against Canadians. I just love Canadian people, because they are really kind and are trying to help us.”
After the tour, the Ukrainian team will participate in the Winter University Games. Bisons forward Brett Davis, who grew up in Oakbank, was named to Team Canada for the games earlier this month.