Teenage hockey player who fled Ukraine gets VIP treatment from Vancouver Giants

The Vancouver Giants are rolling out the red carpet for a 15-year-old Ukrainian hockey player who recently fled his war-torn country to come to Metro Vancouver.

When Russia invaded Ukraine, Dany Bereza’s family in Kyiv contacted another hockey family they know in Surrey. They asked if Bereza could come live with them and it went from there.

“My mom and I live in an area where there were a lot of bombs and a lot of military, so it was quite dangerous,” he said in an interview with CTV News.

It took Bereza days to get to Poland, and days more to get to Canada. As he traveled through his country to the border, he saw the devastation caused by the fighting.

“kyiv was almost destroyed. Some towns around kyiv have been destroyed, only a few buildings remain. So it was quite difficult, but I’m finally here,” he said.

But Bereza, who plays high-level hockey in Ukraine, arrived in Canada with little more than a backpack. Logistical and security issues prevented him from bringing his hockey equipment.

The Vancouver Giants heard his story and invited Bereza to come to their Friday night game against the Everett Silvertips.

“We’re in the hockey business, but we’re also in the business of helping young men become good young citizens,” Vancouver Giants senior vice-president Dale Saip said.

“It’s Canada. This is what we do. This is how we help. This is what we have become and this is the kind of country we are meant to be, so let’s get back to it,” Saip said.

Before the game, Bereza, who has been playing hockey since she was five, met with some of the Giants players.

“It’s a fantastic experience. The WHL is a pretty high standard for junior play and I hope one day I will play there,” he said.

“It’s a great arena, a great dressing room, great players and fantastic play.”

The Giants gave him a pair of hockey gloves, but next week they’ll give him all the new gear as well.

“These kids are having enough trouble these days… without complicating it by fleeing a war. It’s easy help for us,” Saip said.

The Giants will also bring him back to the ice.

He said the team will “try to figure out what level he is at and do a little assessment and kind of coordination to get him into the appropriate group.”

Bereza is thrilled with the team’s offer and thrilled with the opportunity to return to the game he loves.

Catherine J. Martinez