The one-off international, hosted by The Odyssey Trust, was held in support of Ukrainian Hockey Dream – the registered charity of the Ice Hockey Federation of Ukraine, raising vital funds for the organisation through ticket sales, donations and fundraising activities.
With approximately 60% of young ice hockey players in Ukraine forced to abandon their homes and relocate, and 40% of all ice arenas in Ukraine either seized or destroyed, Ukrainian Hockey Dream’s main fundraising aims are to provide young people across Ukraine with opportunities to get back on the ice through the supply of equipment, coaching and infrastructure.
The Belfast Giants All Stars team featured appearances from past and present Giants’ players such as fan favourite JJ Piccinich, Giants’ current head coach Adam Keefe and his former teammate Darryl Lloyd, as well as the iconic former Premier League goalkeeper and current Chelmsford Chieftains netminder, Petr Cech.
All-in-all, the game was not only a display of skill and sportsmanship between two competitive sides, but also a testament to the power of community and the willingness of individuals and organisations to come together in support of a worthy cause.
The game was preceded by the Giants raising their banner for their 2022/23 Playoffs victory over the weekend when they defeated the Cardiff Devils 4-1 in the final in Nottingham to complete the team's first ever treble, while local artist Ryan McMullan kicked off proceedings with a rendition of his song Belfast City.
On the ice, two goals from each of Grant Cooper and Matt McLeod led the Giants All Stars team to a 9-7 victory, with current roster members Mack Stewart and Mark Cooper also on target, as were returning stars Steve Saviano, JJ Piccinich and Darryl Lloyd.
Petr Cech starred in goal for the Giants, playing the first half of the game and conceding one goal before he was replaced by Andrew Dickson, who played the remainder of the game.
After the game, a cheque for £50,000 – the total sum raised so far – was presented by representatives from The Odyssey Trust to Georgii Zubko, President of the Ice Hockey Federation of Ukraine and Director of the Ukrainian Hockey Dream. A further donation from additional fundraising activities is to be announced in due course. Donated by The Odyssey Trust management, a Boston Bruins jersey – signed by the squad that played against a Belfast Giants select team at The SSE Arena, Belfast in October 2010, was raffled off, and generated a further £3,681 for Ukrainian Hockey Dream.
For more information about Ukrainian Hockey Dream or to donate via GoFundMe please visit www.belfastgiants.com/donate.