The Ottawa Senators will play the Ukrainian national anthem before home games for the remainder of the season, team owner Eugene Melnyk said Wednesday, as part of an effort to support the "valiant efforts of the Ukrainian people" amid Russia's baseless invasion of their country.
Melnyk, who was born and raised in Canada but whose parents are from Ukraine, added that the Senators would be using upcoming 50/50 draws to donate to organizations providing humanitarian and medial assistance to Ukraine. The specific organizations were not named.
The Senators will also work with the local Ukrainian community in Ottawa to find ways of using the Canadian Tire Centre, where the team plays, as a drop-off point to collect donations of clothing, medical supplies and other items for those in need.
"As an organization and a community, I am confident that our collective actions and contributions will make a significant difference in the lives of Ukrainians who are currently under siege," Melnyk wrote in a letter that was published in Wednesday's Ottawa Sun and Ottawa Citizen. "I hope you will join me and the Ottawa Senators and help make that happen."
The Winnipeg Jets were the first NHL team to play the Ukrainian national anthem at a home game in support of the country, doing so with a moving performance by the Hoosli Ukrainian Male Chorus on Tuesday.
Melnyk's moves to support the people of Ukraine come as Russia continues to escalate its invasion, which began on Feb. 24, when Russian president Vladimir Putin declared the start of a "special military operation," signalling the start of a conflict many had feared would arrive for weeks as Russian forces amassed on Ukraine's border.
Since then, Russian troops have surrounded key cities in Ukraine’s south and east. Attacks have been reported on hospitals, schools and critical infrastructure.
Current figures from the United Nations Refugee Agency say over half a millionUkrainians have fled the country, while more than 2,000 civilians have died, according to a statement from Ukraine's emergency services agency.
"Today, we are all Ukrainian," Melnyk wrote. "The unprovoked assault and the ensuing carnage, unnecessary human, economic and social destruction of a sovereign country is unspeakable and unacceptable in a civilized world. And while the images from Ukraine show courage and resilience, they also cry out for help."
Leagues and organizing bodies for sport around the world have taken a stand against Russia's invasion, issuing widespread condemnations of their military transgressions and, in some cases, levying bans that prohibit athletes from Russia or its allies from competing.
The International Ice Hockey Federation was one of the groups that issued a ban on teams from Russia and Belarus, which been a launching point for troops throughout the baseless military operation and a supporter of Moscow's actions.
The NHL followed suit and issued sanctions as well, though its punishments were economic in nature, suspending all business dealings with Russia.
"As the owner of the Ottawa Senators of the National Hockey League, I fully endorse the measures being taken by our league, as well as the sanctions imposed by the broader hockey community, especially from the International Ice Hockey Federation," Melnyk wrote. "At home, the Ottawa Senators will do our part to honour and support the valiant efforts of the Ukrainian people."