Hockey team of preteen Ukrainian refugees heads to tournament in Quebec City | Globalnews.ca

Sean Berube said he thought it was a joke when he was first asked to help assemble a team of fifteen Ukrainian refugees displaced by war and scattered across Europe to play in a famous Quebec City hockey tournament. Was.

Berube, a businessman from the Quebec City area, was having a beer in Bucharest last March with Evgeny Pyasarenko, with whom he played hockey in Ukraine as a teenager.

The businessman – with Pisarenko’s help – had just traveled to Ukraine to help his former Ukrainian hockey coach and the coach’s family survive the Russian invasion. To show his gratitude, Berube said he had to offer Pysarenko a beer.

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“Then he (Pysarenko) said, ‘No, I’ve got a different thing to ask you. I have a different favor.

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That favor turned into a mission, culminating with travel visas for a group of 11- and 12-year-olds from Ukraine to Canada to play in the Quebec International PV Hockey Tournament, which featured legends like Wayne Gretzky and Guy Lafleur. Hosted.

The Ukraine team will take to the ice at the Videotron Center on February 11 to play the Junior Bruins of Massachusetts.

“It’s a thrill to see them smiling after all the mess and all the trouble they’ve had for the past few months,” Berube said in an interview this week before leaving for Europe.

Berube said the biggest hurdle in getting them into Canada was the paperwork. The boys were living with their mother in various European countries while their father was on the front line fighting the Russian invasion.

“So to get the autograph for his mother — that was the easy part,” Berube said. “But the hardest part was getting the signatures from the fathers? (they) are all on the battlefield so we had [to go] Through a courier service to get them signed.

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Pysarenko, speaking from Romania, said he researched Ukrainian coaches and compiled a list of potential players before contacting Berube, who put up his own money to bring the kids to Quebec.


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As of this week, Berube was still finalizing tickets and travel insurance and making sure families in Quebec City were ready to host the boys.

“I want to give back to Ukraine,” Berube said. “You know, I had a great time when I went there as a teenager, so I feel like it’s my duty.”

Trials were held over Christmas in Romania. Pysarenko said some of the boys knew each other, either as former teammates or rivals. They will gather again in Romania this weekend, traveling through places like Latvia, Germany, Slovakia and Hungary, before flying to Montreal on February 1 and finally reaching Quebec City.

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“The first goal is to show these kids that anything is possible, that dreams can come true, even if it’s hard back home and it’s war,” Pisarenko said. “They need to believe in a better future, and they can be an example to other people all over the world.”

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Berube was on his way to Europe to pick up the four players at the Ukraine-Romania border. Two of the children are originally from Kherson, which spent months under Russian occupation, and two others are from Odessa, which has also been bombed.

At least one player has lost his father in battle. While preparing a player’s visa application, Berube noticed that only his mother’s signature was included.

“I asked her if she had a divorce certificate or something and she didn’t say anything to me and sent me back the death certificate for the father. I looked it up and it was just a few months ago.

Pysarenko played in the Quebec tournament in 1993, a few years after Ukraine declared independence from the Soviet Union.

“It was not such an easy life for us, but it was very important to go to Canada, take a big step, see the world, see hockey,” Pisarenko recalled.

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Patrick Dome, general manager of the Quebec tournament, said he never could have imagined the type of reaction the Ukrainian team’s participation generated. He added that pre-sales for February 11 – when the Ukrainian team first achieved success – have broken records.

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“If for the time that they’re going to be here, they can forget what’s going on out there and where they live? That’s what we want,” Dom said.

“They’ll remember it for the rest of their lives.”

The tournament runs from February 8-19.

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