Working on fitness, English
The new hockey season, whenever it comes, is not going to take Danil (“Call me Dani”) Babchuk by surprise. Last year’s standout defenceman for the Slave Lake Icedogs plans to come back for a second season and he is working hard on his fitness.
“Practice,” he says, in halting English. “Gym. Riding bike.”
Babchuk hasn’t been home to Ukraine since he arrived to play hockey last fall. COVID, a shortage of money and the fact he likes it here were factors.
He’s been working on his English too, but is reticent about using it in an interview, falling back on the translation program on his cell phone. But the gist of it is that Babchuk – though he is good enough to have attracted the attention of higher levels of hockey – is committing to another year in Slave Lake. He says he hopes to learn the language and put it to use as a teacher in years to come. For now, it’s working out, learning and looking forward to a new season.
Babchuk boards with the Pearsons on Devonshire Lane. It’s a nice spot, with the lake out front and trails in the park behind.
“Park is very good,” he says, adding he has done “a little swimming,” so far.
Slave Lake is obviously a lot different than where Babchuk comes from. For one thing, his home town is Karkhiv, a city of about two million, where Russian is the predominant language.
Fluency in English notwithstanding, Babchuk can be expected to be a leader on the ice this season. Nobody works harder, in practice or in games – or indeed off the ice, as he continues to demonstrate. Asked what he thinks of one of his teammates, Babchuk says he works hard in games, but is “lazy” in practice. That is an unfortunately common situation at this level of hockey – maybe any level. That’s why somebody who works as hard as Dani Babchuk is so highly valued by coaching and management. Not to mention the fans, who know a good defenceman when they see one.
Barr says Babchuk will have an agent looking out for his interests this season, with a goal of hooking him up with a professional or maybe college program. As for who he’ll be playing with, it will be a mix of local guys, with others from parts of Canada, the U.S. and even further.
“We have two more Ukrainians coming,” says Barr.