A very special exhibition game took place at Father David Bauer Arena on Monday night in Calgary.
The Ukrainian national under-25 team is touring universities in Western Canada as part of the Hockey Can’t Stop Tour. On Monday, that tour landed in Calgary for the team to take on the University of Calgary Dinos.
The reception was astounding for those taking part.
“Hockey is my life for sure. And (during) this hard time for Ukraine and for my family and for my country, this is just one thing which is making me happy,” said Ukrainian defenceman Andriy Sriubko.
Ticket sale profits are being sent to the Canada/Ukraine Foundation, which provides assistance to humanitarian groups in Ukraine and Canada.
Canada West said the foundation will disperse the majority of funds to Save Ukrainian Hockey Dream, a charitable foundation operated by the Ice Hockey Federation of Ukraine with the assistance of the IIHF.
The tour is one way the federation hopes to keep the sport of hockey alive and well in Ukraine, despite the ongoing war against Russia.
“It’s very important for hockey and for young players in Ukraine because without this money, hockey will be done, I think, in Ukraine,” Sriubko said.
“I would like to say thank you to everybody helping us and supporting us.”
Most Ukrainian men aged 18 to 60 are not currently allowed to leave Ukraine without special permission, so Canada West said the tour provides them a rare opportunity to focus on hockey without the constant danger of attack.
According to U of C’s athletic director, a two-day promotional push saw more than 1,500 people committing to come out and support the Ukrainian team — a number that makes the Dinos feel proud to host such a game.
“It’s just insane. It’s awesome that the passion for the game, especially through those conditions, is just unbelievable,” said Dinos captain Noah King. “You’ve just got to respect it for sure.”
The team will also play at Winnipeg’s Canada Life Centre next week.
The Hockey Can’t Stop Tour is also preparing the Ukrainian team to participate in the Winter University Games in Lake Placid, New York from January 11-23.