Monday night’s matchup between the University of Manitoba Bisons and the Ukrainian men’s national team in Winnipeg is about more than just hockey, according to the Bisons’ head coach.
While Mike Sirant acknowledges the 7 p.m. game — the last of four stops for the Ukrainian squad’s Hockey Can’t Stop Tour — will be “great development opportunity” for his team, the most important aspect will come after the goals are scored and the skates come off.
“It goes beyond the game,” Sirant told 680 CJOB Monday afternoon, explaining players from both teams are planning to meet at a reception later Monday.
“We’ve made it so that it’s going to be an opportunity for our players to mingle. It’s not going to be a sit down dinner.
“I want our guys to interact with Ukrainian players to meet them and to learn what’s going on in their countries.”
The Ukrainian team has been in the Prairies preparing for the 2023 Winter World University Games scheduled to start later this week in Lake Placid, N.Y.
Due to intensified attacks on its infrastructure during the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the country has experienced periods with no electricity, heat or running water, preventing the under-25 team from training at home.
The team has so far played the Saskatchewan Huskies in Saskatoon, the Calgary Dinos, and the Alberta Golden Bears in Edmonton as part of a western Canadian tour that’s seen all proceeds from the games go to the Canada-Ukraine Foundation to rebuild arenas destroyed in the war and to provide humanitarian aid.
The Ukrainian team practiced at Subway arena in Winnipeg over the weekend.
“I was so excited to come here to play when I found out about this tour,” said Ukrainian forward Gleb Krivoshapkin, said in an interview with Global News Saturday.
“This is an amazing experience. Really nice arenas, a lot of fans. I’m thankful to everyone who supported us, who came to the games.”
A crowd of 7,000 is expected to take in Monday night’s game, held at the Canada Life Centre in Winnipeg.
Sirant says more than half of those tickets have been given out to Ukrainian refugees living in Manitoba. The Hoosli Ukrainian Male Chorus is slated to sing the national anthem.
“It’s going to be a cultural event and for me, a special meaning, because I’m of Ukrainian heritage,” Sirant said.
“So if I can play a small role in helping generate funds for humanitarian aid in the Ukraine and and to help develop their hockey program, too, I’m just honored to be a part of this.
“It’s going to be a real exciting and very memorable game.”