Philadelphia Flyers’ development coach Kjell Samuelsson had just finished observing a group of slick-skating defensemen competing in a five-on-five scrimmage at the club’s 2019 development camp. The 6-foot-6, 14-year veteran blueliner was totally cognizant of the sport’s current trends – today’s hockey features mobile defensemen.
Our annual peek at the three minor leagues in professional hockey reveals a total of 44 players of Ukrainian descent seeing action in the coronavirus shortened 2019-2020 season. Seven of the above also skated for their NHL clubs – of these, Taylor Fedun (Dallas) and Greg Pateryn (Minnesota) were on injury rehab assignment while Jayce Hawryluk (Florida to Ottawa) and Curtis Lazar (Buffalo) were awaiting either a waiver claim or permanent recall, respectively.
A grand total of 43 known youngsters of Ukrainian descent dotted rosters of the three major junior circuits in the 2019-2020 hockey season with the Western Hockey League boasting the vast majority (35).
In the National Hockey League, the hometown team always wears white, but this was not the case on this particular spring day, when General Manager Neil Smith defied tradition, and outfitted his New York Rangers in their blue sweaters. This was supposed to be a most special game.
Attempting to reassert his voice, Aliu wrote a 4,000-word article for The Players’ Tribune on May 19, 2020, headlined “Hockey is not for everyone” – a purposeful dig at the “Hockey is for everyone” diversity campaign the NHL has run since 1998. His story included Peters’ comments, Downie’s cross-check (see part 1) and other descriptions of racial abuse in raw detail, prompting a viral response way more positive than what Aliu heard back after his original tweets. He formed direct relationships with activists like Alyssa Milano, Marshawn Lynch and other NHL players.
Walter Edward “Turk” Broda was born in 1914 and very quickly as a youngster fell in love with hockey. He grew up wanting to be a defenseman, but had lots of difficulty as a skater. When his Brandon, Manitoba, school organized a hockey team, Broda had high hopes, which were soon enough dashed because of his poor skating. At the time, coaches usually selected the chubbiest kid to play goalie, so Broda had shots fired at him every day in practice.
In June 2020, a group of nine current and former NHL players established the Hockey Diversity Alliance (HDA), an organization dedicated to social justice issues in the world of hockey. One of the two co-chairmen of the HDA is Akim Aliu, a 31-year-old former NHL defenseman of Ukrainian origin, who shook the sport in November 2019 by exposing his encounters with racism.
Chmelevski notches point in NHL debut Alex “Sasha” Chmelevski produced an assist and two shots on goal in San Jose’s 5-4 shootout win over Anaheim on February 5. Chmelevski was credited with the secondary helper on linemate Matt Nieto’s opening tally. The assist was the 21-year-old Ukrainian’s first NHL point in his debut game with the Sharks. He was selected by San Jose in the sixth round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. Chmelevski totaled 27 points in 42 games with San Jose’s AHL team in 2019-2020. He is slated to spend the bulk of the current season back with the San Jose Barracuda, seeing occasional time with the parent club as an extra forward on the taxi squad.