For the Hobart hockey team, the Russian and Ukraine conflict is very personal.
For Hobart hockey teammates and friends Artem Buzoverya ’24 and Gagik Malakyan ’24, the political relations between Ukraine and Russia, which culminated with the invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces Thursday, have a personal connection. Buzoverya was born in Kharkiv, Ukraine, less than 30 miles from the Russian border and near where Russian forces have entered and attacked. Malakyan grew up in Moscow, Russia. Both have families in their respective countries.
“You sit every day and just hope for the best but in reality you never know. You don’t control it. None of us do,” says Buzoverya, an economics and international relations double major.
As bombing continues throughout Ukraine, including the capital of Kiev, both Buzoverya and Malakyan are speaking frequently with their parents in their home countries. Malakyan also reaches out to his best friend, who lives in Russia.
Buzoverya and Malakyan have lived in America since high school when they each joined junior hockey leagues while living with host families.
When the junior leagues ended, both ended up committing to Hobart.
Gagik Malakyan ’24, of Russia, and Artem Buzoverya ’24 of Ukraine, are friends on and off the ice.
That’s when the two met and built a strong friendship. They bonded through shared economics classes and a common language, Russian. “Having that shared language is really amazing,” says Buzoverya. “We can joke around and talk about things in a different way.” Adds Malakyan, “We have a lot in common, and we understand one another.”
The two instantly bonded with their hockey teammates as well.
“As soon as you step in the locker room, you feel like this is your family,” says Malakyan, an economics major. “These are the guys you want to spend time with. I felt like it was my second family here in the locker room.”
Their time on the ice started with the 2020 Hockey season, which was limited to three exhibition games due to the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning little time for the two on the ice. Their sophomore year has seen them help the hockey team post a 19-4-2 overall record and win the New England Hockey Conference’s regular season title.
A center on Hobart’s top line, Buzoverya is one of six Statesmen to have compiled 20 points this season. He is third on the team with 16 assists. In his first NEHC tournament game against Southern Maine, he logged three assists, matching his career-high for points in a game. A defender, Malakyan has been limited to 10 games this season due to an injury. He has six points on a goal and five assists. Malakyan had a pair of assists in the victory over the Huskies.
They will be back on the ice at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 26, when Hobart hosts Skidmore in a NEHC Semifinal contest.
“From day one, these two young men have distinguished themselves on and off the ice as athletes, citizens and especially students,” says Head Hobart Hockey Coach Mark Taylor. “They are going through a lot right now, and we are doing everything we can to support them. What I know for sure is they have the full support of the Colleges, certainly of their teammates and most importantly of each other.”
Beyond the traditional benefits of athletics—such as fitness, building interpersonal and coordination skills—hockey has more recently become an escape for the two.
“Every time you step on the ice, you kind of forget about your problems and enjoy the moment with the guys,” Malakyan says. “But then you get off the ice and you’re back in reality again, picturing all this stuff that is going on in the world and you can’t do anything about it.”
Buzoverya says it has been hard not to pay attention to what is going on with constant news coverage.
“Lately, it’s been kind of hard just to close your eyes and go to sleep not thinking about it because it’s always there. You might go to sleep with a seven-hour difference and wake up to 100 messages saying the worst has happened,” he says.
While both are against violence between the two countries, they recognize they can’t do anything about what is happening geopolitically. “It’s hard not to feel anxious and helpless at times,” says Malakyan.
Students on campus not well versed in the news might not understand where these feelings are coming from and how the fighting impacts Buzoverya, Malakyan or other international students. The Colleges have one other student from Ukraine and a Fulbright visiting scholar from Russia.
For all students, though, regardless of what they may be dealing with, they have a message: Be open to lend a hand or an ear.
“In the grand scheme of things, when you see your friends down, never be too harsh, because you never know what’s going on in someone else’s life,” Buzoverya says. “Be a human. Know there are things affecting them. I’m so grateful to everyone at HWS who is supporting me and who cares.”
“This is a really challenging time,” says Malakyan. “I’m thankful for my teammates, coaches, friends and faculty who are doing what they can to help.”