Maryna Kobchuk’s Amazing Story On Her Journey To the Buffalo Beauts Free-Agent Tryout Camp

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    BY RANDY SCHULTZ –

    Maryna Kobchuk sits on the bench inside the Olympic Rink located in the Northtown Center in Amherst, NY. It is the second day of a two day free-agent tryout camp for the Buffalo Beauts of the Premier Hockey Federation.

    While the weather outside is your normal late June day in Western New York, it is a bit cooler inside the hockey arena. For Kobchuk and the 37 other women that joined her this weekend, it has been a grueling two days of scrimmages, exercise and drills.

    Like any tryout came, players will go to extremes to attempt to make a hockey team. In Kobchuk’s case it could be considered the ultimate in extreme.

    Kobchuk is a native of the Ukraine. That is the same Ukraine that has been under attack by Russia since February of this year.

    Beauts general manager, Nathaniel Oliver, is very familiar with Kobchuk and what she has gone through just to get here for the tryout camp.

    “It goes back to my days as a journalist when I first met Maryna when she was about 15 years old,” recalled Oliver. “At the time they were trying to get women’s hockey started at the time and there were only about four teams.

    “Maryno played for a team in the country’s capital in Kyiv.”

    By the time Kobchuk was 17 she was a member of the Ukrainian Women’s National Team.

    “They are very passionate about hockey in the Ukraine,” continued Oliver. “Some of their hockey hero’s from their country include Rusian Fedotenko and (former Buffalo Sabres defenseman) Alexei Zhitnik.

    “Those present day hockey players had a lot of inspiration from players like those two who made it to the NHL.”

    With her country now being war-torn, Kobchuk knew this might be her only chance to come to North America and get a chance to play professional women’s hockey.

    “Back in March I reached out to her to make sure that her and her family were alright,” recalled Oliver. “She told me that her house was getting hit by bullets every single day.

    “She and her family were in a bunker and was staying down in a basement with her mother, brother and herself. At the time the time they had enough food and water to last them about two weeks.

    “They eventually retreated from the countryside to Kyiv because the Russian’s hadn’t got there. But they could still hear bombings and gun fire every single day.

    “From there Maryna and her brother were able to get out from Ukraine and get to Poland. Her mom stayed behind to continue working and help make ends meet.

    “From Poland Maryna was able to get herself to France. And from France she was able to get over to the United States. Because she had been in the U.S. a couple of years before with the Women’s National Team for a hockey clinic in the DC area, Maryna still had a visa to travel into the U.S. for a few more years.”

    Kobchuk is currently residing in the New York City area with a Ukrainian family.

    Oliver explained that there was one more twist to her trip to Western New York.

    “She doesn’t speak a word of English,” explained the Beauts GM. “She has a friend in Western New York that interprets for her.

    “And on the final leg of her journey to Buffalo, she boarded a bus, by herself, and made the six-hour trip to get to the Beauts camp. She had her cloths and hockey equipment packed into her hockey bag.

    “She’s staying with a Ukrainian family here in the Buffalo area while she is here.”

    The 23 year-old Kobchuk still had one more hurdle to get over during the tryout camp.

    (Maryna Kobchuk and Nate Oliver)

    “Being that she doesn’t speak English, she had to figure out quickly by watching what the drills were,” stated Oliver. “Plus, some of the drills she had never seen before so she had to figure those out quickly.”

    One other side note to Kobchuk’s amazing story is that she is an amazing baker.

    “Before the war got underway, Maryna was on a reality TV show in the Ukraine,” concluded Oliver. “It was based on cake baking and decorating.

    “She did very well. Not only is she passionate about hockey, but equally passionate about baking.

    “She is truly amazing, to say the least.”

    Yes indeed.

    (Janet Schultz Photography, NY Hockey OnLine)

    (Maryna and Nate Photo by Nate Oliver)

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