Big smiles for the little Ukrainian hockey players at the sight of the rink
< /p> UPDATE DAY
The 17 Ukrainian hockey players who arrived in Quebec City yesterday to participate in the Pee-wee Tournament had their eyes puffy from the fatigue of the long journey when they finally walked through the doors of the Videotron Center in the middle of the evening, in order to find their nine host families there who applauded them on their arrival.
But the fatigue seemed to dissipate a little and gave way to broad smiles when the young went upstairs to see the huge arena where they will play their first official game on February 11.
“It’s really amazing! launched Maksym, dressed in a coat bearing the image of the tournament, on which is embroidered a flag of Ukraine. For us, it's a chance to be here. »
An email that changed everything
Two hours earlier, the entrance hall of the amphitheater was gradually beginning to fill with foster family members, most of whom have children attending St. Patrick's High School.
The excitement was palpable. The mums we met were eager to meet their proteges, who had only learned their names on Tuesday.
He hadn't It was difficult to convince them to embark on this wonderful three-week adventure. An email sent by one of the hockey coaches at St. Patrick's High School made their hearts melt.
“All the scope of the action that we could take, it affected us, raised Annie Hamel. It's as if someone had given us a pole so that we could achieve something concrete.
“Yes, we can send money to Ukraine. But there, we have the impression of being able to make a difference in their lives. »
Ukrainians came to wait
It wasn't just host families who were eagerly awaiting the young hockey players. Irina and her two boys, originally from Kyiv and arrived last August, came to welcome them with their Ukrainian flag.
“I know that some will be going back there in three weeks, but the important thing is that they live something positive while they are here,” smiled the lady.
Tournament general manager Patrick Dom, for his part, was captivated by all the generosity shown by the people of Quebec since the announcement of the arrival of the pee-wee from Ukraine.
“I realize that Quebec is really special”, he underlined .
“Everyone loves them”
Already, 6,000 tickets have been sold for the team's first game, against the Boston Bruins junior. A historical fact for the event, since generally, the majority of spectators obtain their right of entry the same day.
And Mr. Dom expects a full house, which would be a first for the tournament at the Videotron Center.
“What I dread, even if I don't want to think about it too much right away, is the return. But at least the message they can send is that everyone loves them. Everyone loves them,” pointed out Mr. Dom.
“If we can put a balm on what they have been living as crap for a year, that will be it. »
Players sending a message of hope
“At the start, it was an impossible mission. Now that we have arrived here, it is a miracle on the ice,” Ukrainian delegation coach Yevgeny Pysarenko stressed yesterday.
The past few weeks have not been easy for the hockey players or for Pysarenko. It was necessary to gather these young people scattered in several European countries. Four of them were still in Ukraine a few days ago.
“We try to explain to young people that this experience is special, that it goes beyond hockey. May they send a message of hope to the whole world. That they are an example of strength, resilience and solidarity,” pointed out the coach.
Like his players, Pysarenko was tired from the long flights and car journey between Montreal and Quebec. But while he was no doubt eager to get back to bed, he was also excited to see what awaited the team in the next three weeks.
“The young people are excited,” he said. underlined.
A busy schedule
Already, Pysarenko knew their schedule would be packed. As is the norm during the pee-wee visit to Quebec, the young people will visit the main attractions of the city.
They will also train in the coming days with players from the St Patrick's High School, in the school's facilities.
And the town of Shannon, where two host families reside, invited them to come and play for free on its ice rinks, where the Admission is generally charged for out-of-town visitors.
Ready for a full house
There may also be Tim Hortons On the menu. At least that's what Mia, the daughter of Diane Toy, who is the mother of one of the foster families, has in mind.
But above all, says Pysarenko, the next three weeks will be emotionally charged.
In particular during their first official game, on the 11th, for which he expects a Videotron Center filled.
“We're ready for that,” he smiled.