Exhausted, but so proud
“I can't believe this is happening. My dream was to come to Canada and it is coming true. It's so cool! “.
Young Maksym Shtepa summed up, in one sentence, what could be read in the eyes of his 16 other teammates. Ukrainian team when they set foot at the Montreal airport for their participation in the Tournoi international de hockey pee-wee de Québec on Wednesday.
“I feel so good. To have the chance to represent my country is an honor. I am proud to be one of the 17 best players in our country,” added his teammate Maksym Kuharenko a few meters further on.
The features drawn by long hours of flight, there was something moving, to see these young pee-wee disembarking at the exit of the airport and to see their eyes when they were greeted by the flashes of television cameras and the crackle of cameras.
“My eyes were watering when I saw them come out, with all the photographers around them. It's such a crazy experience,” said François Robert, one of the few members to have taken part in the convoy of three vans on Wednesday, aimed at picking them up in Montreal and then driving them to Quebec. .
The young hockey players arrived at the Pierre-Elliott-Trudeau airport on Wednesday. On site, they received coats in the colors of the Ukrainian flag.
Because I had the chance to accompany this convoy on Wednesday and to meet young people for whom the most beautiful adventure of their life probably began on Wednesday.
On the way to back, I was accompanied by Olivier Hubert-Benoit, responsible for all the logistics of the Quebec trip for the Ukrainians and six members of the team: Yehor Kosenko, Ivan Bilozerov, Mykyta Saskevich, Maksym Kuharenko, Yehor Shraier and Dmytro Korzh.
CANADIANS AND OVECHKIN
And the atmosphere was festive inside the van. Well, we can't tell you exactly what they told each other — our Ukrainian is pretty bad even though we learned that pryvit meant hello — but they had fun. Lots of fun.
However, just a few weeks ago, these young people were spread across Europe. Two, Shraier and Kozh, were in the middle of the war, in Ukraine, while the other four had taken refuge in Slovakia, Czechia, Germany and Romania with their families. But all that on Wednesday was secondary. On Wednesday they were Team Ukraine Select, a hockey team that came here and not just for the good story. On Wednesday, they were young teenagers for whom hockey came to put a balm on the drama they are living at home.
“Sir, can you tell us about hockey in Canada, please?” Yehor Kosenko asked me at the start of the trip, while Shraier was filming with a small camera.
A great question, if there ever was one! In the end, we talked about the Canadians — they all gave a big “oh! ” of exclamation when we passed by the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard and they saw the sign of the Habs.
The last time we had seen them exclaim so loudly was… half an hour before, when they had seen the box of donuts waiting for them in the car! During the discussion, we also realized how geopolitics and hockey were two separate things, for these young hockey players, when we asked one of them who his favorite player was and he answered. .. Alex Ovechkin!
” I love him, even though he's old “, he candidly justified himself afterwards.
The members of the he team finally arrived at their destination, at the Videotron Center in Quebec City, in the evening.
TEAM OF THE HOUR
We also obviously talked about the Remparts, who they will see play Saturday afternoon against the Moncton Wildcats, but we also warned them: the team of the hour in Quebec, at the moment, c it's them!
“Yes, we've seen our photos in several articles”, proudly launched one of them.
Hard to know s 'they are really aware of what awaits them and of the enthusiasm they have been arousing for the past two weeks, and not just in Quebec. One thing is certain, they have ambition!
“We have good players, good goalkeepers and good coaches. We play in the AA, but I think we could play in the AA Elite, at least! » launches the young Shtepa.
Victory or not, for the first time in nearly a year, war will no longer be part of the daily lives of these teenagers.
Ukraine will start the Peewee Tournament on February 11 at 11:45 a.m. against the Boston Junior Bruins.