The final game of the “Hockey Can’t Stop” Tour takes place on Monday at the Canada Life Centre in Winnipeg
Perhaps it’s only fitting that a tour as important as this gets to see its final game happen on it’s biggest stage.
In front of an expected crowd of over 7000, the Ukrainian U-25 National team will close out the four-game “Hockey Can’t Stop” Tour on Monday, Jan. 9, at the Canada Life Centre in Winnipeg.
The matchup against the Manitoba Bisons on the home ice of the Winnipeg Jets will serve as the capper to the week-and-a-half tour across Western Canada that has been focused both on the ice as Ukraine prepares for the 2023 World University Games on Thursday, Jan 12, but also off the ice as communities across Canada have come together to show support for a team working to help keep hockey alive in their country.
The tour started with a game against Saskatchewan at Merlis Belcher Place on Dec. 30, which the Huskies took 2-0. Ukraine then travelled to Calgary on Jan 2 to Father David Bauer Arena for a matchup against the Dinos, who won 3-1, before Ukraine travelled up Highway 2 to Edmonton and the historic Clare Drake Arena for a game against the Alberta Golden Bears who won 5-1.
To anyone involved in the tour, though, the actual hockey played on the ice (while yes valuable preparation for the World University Games), pales in importance to everything that’s gone on around the games the last ten days.
From the packed houses that greeted the Ukrainian U25 National Team in every city that visited.
To the organizations who provided the team with unique opportunities,
To the simple ways that people have pitched in to help cement this once-in-a-lifetime experience for these athletes.
The packed houses are even more valuable as all of the proceeds from ticket sales from the tour will go to the Canada/Ukraine Foundation, which will disperse the majority to Save Ukrainian Hockey Dream, a foundation run by the Ice Hockey Federation of Ukraine and the IIHF.
When the buzzer sounds at the Canada Life Centre on Monday night, either the Bisons will pick up their first win of 2023 (after dropping their opening two games of the Canada West season on Friday and Saturday), or the Ukrainian U25 National Team will get to mark down a win to close the tour.
Whatever the result, though, that won’t be the most important part. The most important will be the money raised, the experience given and as Ice Hockey Federation of Ukraine Executive Director Aleksandra Slatvytska says the opportunity to continue to grow the relationship between Canada and Ukraine.
“I hope that this tour is not just going to be good preparation for the World University Games and not just raise some money for humanitarian aid for Ukrainians,” she said. “But also I really hope with all my heart that it’s going to be the big beginning and good start for the hockey relationship between Ukraine and Canada for many, many more years.”
Cover Photo: Brad Hamilton/Alberta Golden Bears Athletics