Anchorage Wolverines raise money for player’s family as they seek refuge from war in Ukraine

The Anchorage Wolverines hockey team is trying to help get a Ukrainian player's family to the US after they fled their home country.
Published: Mar. 17, 2022 at 5:13 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Hockey has become a welcome distraction for Anchorage Wolverines player Bohdan Panasenko as the war in his home country of Ukraine has forced his mother and brother to flee to the Czech Republic, while his father fights against the Russian invasion.

“When he gets on the ice then all he thinks about is game,” said Panasenko’s translator, Yana Tatarinova. “Once he gets off the ice, then he can call his parents, and talk to them.”

The Wolverines are fundraising for Panaseko and his family as his mother and brother try to get a United States visa. The junior hockey team has a goal of raising $20,000, and so far they’ve received over $5,000 in donations.

“Everybody’s been very helpful,” Panasenko’s translator said. ”... (He) did not expect so much support and help from the staff, from the players, and from the trainers.”

The backing from his hockey team has gone a long way as the 18-year-old adjusts to life in a new country. The North American Hockey League allows each team to have four players from outside of the United States on their roster.

“He’s dealing with it well,” head coach Mike Aikens said. “I think for him coming to the rink is a probably a little bit of an escape, where he can get away from that stuff and just think about hockey and being with his teammates.”

Aikens first recruited Panasenko at an NAHL showcase in Minnesota and said they could only communicate through a talk-to-text app on the coach’s phone.

“... His English has improved greatly,” Aikens said. “He’s starting to really understand English and is able to communicate better with not only us (coaches) but the players.”

The 18-year-old is the second-youngest player on the Wolverines roster, and Aikens said he’s a mix of finesse and physicality on the ice.

“Bo is extremely gifted, athletically. He’s fast, he’s skilled, he can handle the puck,” Aikens said.

Panasenko and the Wolverines are in the midst of a playoff push as they finish out the final month and a half of their season.

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