Happy to be playing

Western Capital from Ukraine talks about opportunity to continue career in Canada

Jason.simmonds @theguardian.pe.ca @JpsportsJason JASON SIMMONDS SPORTS EDITOR



SaltWire Network



Western Capitals sign players two Ukrainian SUMMERSIDE, P.E.I. – It was a night that was about much more than hockey. On paper, the Summerside D. Alex MacDonald Ford Western Capitals dropped a 6-5 overtime decision to the Miramichi Timberwolves in the Maritime Junior Hockey League (MHL) on March 9. However, the game was not the storyline on this night. That belonged to the debut of Caps’ 19-year-old forward David Sibilevich, who is from Ukraine. “I’m really happy, and finally I’m here,” Sibilevich told SaltWire Network in a post-game interview with the assistance of a translation app on his phone. The Caps signed Sibilevich and fellow Ukrainian defenceman Fedor Babenko, 18, as free agents before the Feb. 10 signing deadline. Work is continuing on the logistics of getting Babenko to Canada, which the Caps are hoping will be soon. Caps general manager Pat McIver said European players are not permitted to play in the Canadian Junior Hockey League (CJHL), but Hockey Canada granted exemptions for players from Ukraine following Russia’s invasion of the country just over a year ago. “I am happy to be playing hockey, and Canada has the highest level of hockey,” said Sibilevich, who stands over six feet and weighs around 200 pounds. “I’m very happy to be here in the country and continue my career in a top league.” Sibilevich, who scored his first goal as a Western Capital in a 4-1 road win over the Valley Wildcats on March 10, described the level of play in the MHL as a “level up for me,” and admitted he felt a lot of emotions playing his first game in Canada. Sibilevich, who came to Canada from Germany, said he follows the news on what is happening in Ukraine as his father, mother and sister remain there. “I call every day and ask, ‘How are you?,’” said Sibilevich, who arrived in Halifax late in the day on March 8 after a 27-hour trip to Canada. Sibilevich who had not played hockey since December, was outfitted for an entire set of equipment on March 9, had a light skate that afternoon and was in the lineup later that evening. “I don’t put a lot into that game, but I saw him do a lot of good things,” said Caps head coach Billy McGuigan. “At the end of the day, this kid flew in from halfway across the world, ended up having flights getting rerouted and had a lot of obstacles getting here in the last 24 hours.” McGuigan said it’s important to understand Sibilevich’s situation in his debut. McGuigan noted it is not easy for a player to play in all new gear, especially skates, without any real practice time and, on top of everything, come off a long travel day. “He faced all of those obstacles and to play as well as he did, to be totally honest, I wasn’t going to play him as much as I did,” said McGuigan. “I was going to spot him into some shifts, as the game meant nothing to us and everything to them. “We wanted to get him and get his feet wet. He certainly did.” Caps defenceman and team captain Will Proud of Stratford said the players are happy Sibilevich and Babenko can come to Canada and continue playing hockey. Proud added everyone wanted to make Sibilevich feel comfortable and as welcome as possible. “I thought (Sibilevich) fit in well,” said Proud. “The whole group is excited to have him onboard, and especially when Fedor gets here, it’s going to be exciting for us.” Proud said Sibilevich joining the Caps also provides a learning opportunity for the team’s players. “We are excited that we are able to give him an opportunity to play over here,” said Proud. “It’s unfortunate what they have to go through, and it’s important that we understand and learn more about it.” McGuigan said there is an important human element to this story as well. “I said it earlier this week, it’s a cool story for our guys, meeting someone from Ukraine and understanding what his troubles are and we don’t have any idea what’s going on there,” said McGuigan. “To have him come in, share his story and get to know him – it’s going to be a pretty important piece for our kids.”