Belfast Giants raise thousands for Ukrainian family of Sheffield Steeler’s wife

Belfast Giants were worthy Elite League champions and their fans are pretty special too - just ask Sheffield Steelers' star Martin Látal.

Tuesday, 19th April 2022, 10:16 am

The winger was presented with the £5,200 proceeds of a shirt raffle in the last match between the EIHL giants.

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The money will go to help support the family of Látal's Ukrainian wife Iryna, who are now seeking refuge from Russia's invaders.

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The gift follows a similar benefit undertaken by Sheffield fans, who share Látal's concern for the fleeing family members, currently living in his home country, the Czech Republic.

Látal is trying to financially support his wife’s family by providing food, clothing, heating, and shelter.

The player is humbled by the help from all sides of the UK ice hockey community.

Equally, he knows it is an uncertain road ahead for his in-laws. The humanitarian crisis shows no sign of abating.

Martin Látal and family.

He said they were safe and now being supported on the ground by his wife, who had flown back.

"With the money you guys raised, we will not only support our family we are looking to help many, many kids either with food, or clothes or toys."

He said the refugees were "very, very grateful" for the British backing especially because the Czech government had only managed to provide a basic amount towards individual living costs.

Latal has to put such thoughts to the back of his mind as Sheffield approaches the business end of the EIHL season, with play-off quarter-final matches against Dundee Stars on Saturday (home) and Sunday (away.)

Martin Latal and Davey Phillips.

It had been difficult for him to concentrate on normal life, particularly at the start of the war, he said, there had been some sleepless nights and other moments of anxiety.

He said he was forever checking for updates on the situation, saying: "It is so frustrating and so sad to see what human beings can do to each other."

While sport pales into insignificance, Látal is a professional and will give his all in the remaining games of the season.

As much as he will want to rejoin his wife and help her rapidly expanding duties, he won't want the season to end on the low note of failing to qualify for the Play-Off semi-finals.

Victorious Belfast.

Dundee are the team standing in the way of that and it won't have slipped anybody's mind at Sheffield Arena that Steelers have lost half the games they have played against them.

Fox's men will want to build a decent lead before heading for Sunday's climax at a rink where they have been defeated on their previous two trips.

In the other weekend quarter-finals, Belfast Giants play Coventry Blaze, Cardiff Devils take on Glasgow Clan and Nottingham Panthers face Guildford Flames.