University of Wisconsin-Superior's Terchiyev keeps focus while homeland soldiers on
The first Ukrainian to play with the Yellowjackets stays in touch with loved ones during the Russian invasion.
SUPERIOR — As Russian tanks rolled into Ukraine the morning of Feb. 24 and missiles pounded the country, back in the comfort of the United States, millions of Americans were glued to their television sets, transfixed by horrific images of the largest attack on a European country since World War II.
For Wisconsin-Superior men’s hockey defenseman Artur “Arty” Terchiyev, the news hit a little closer to home. Check that — a lot closer to home.
Terchiyev is from Kyiv, the capital and most populous city in Ukraine.
“The whole situation has been terrible,” said Terchiyev, 24. “It’s a full-on invasion by Russia, and one of the worst things to see is some of the Russians believing that they are saving us from our own terrorists. So they believe they are saving us, these brainwashed soldiers. It’s just been incredibly strange to see what’s been going on.”
Not to mention a couple other "S" words — scary, and incredibly sad — with reportedly more than 4 million Ukrainian refugees flooding the rest of Europe, about 10% of the country’s population, crying out, desperate for help.
Terchiyev, the first Ukrainian to play for UWS, became the first Yellowjacket to earn NCAA Division III All-American honors in nearly a decade last week, something he called “super awesome.” The 6-foot-3, 190-pound senior saved his best for last, with six goals and 14 assists for 20 points in 24 games before an injury sidelined him for the final five contests.
When the Russian invasion started, the Yellowjackets, the defending Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament champions, were preparing for their semifinal series at Wisconsin-Stevens Point, but Terchiyev, who injured his knee two weeks earlier against Wisconsin-Stout, was busy rehabbing. Initially, he couldn’t even walk, but the injury didn’t require surgery. He was determined to make it back before his collegiate career was over.
Terchiyev (pronounced "Ter-chieve") is now playing professional hockey for the Birmingham (Alabama) Bulls of the Southern Professional Hockey League. He isn't the type to talk about personal stuff — he’s team first, all the way, a focused and heady hockey player who keeps things close to the sweater, stoically carrying on about his business. But make no mistake, despite the steely exterior, Arty is very human on the inside.
“We create a safe place and a culture of caring and listening, whatever you want to say, say it, because it’s between us, and whatever we can do to help, we’re here for you,” UWS coach Rich McKenna said.
“I’d check in with Arty every now and again. He would come into the office and I’d say, ‘What’s up, man?’ And he’d be like, ‘Everything is fine,’ and it was bull. ‘Arty, come on, talk to me here, what’s going on? Do you need something? Do you need a day (off)? What do you need?’ And he said, ‘I just need to get back on the ice and start playing again.’ It was tough, because in all honesty, I think we would have had him if we got back to the (tournament) championship.”
That was not to be, however, as Stevens Point edged UWS 4-3 and 3-2, sweeping the best-of-three series 2-0.
“I think Arty wasn’t going to be denied,” McKenna said. “He was going to find a way to come back. He said to me, ‘I just need you guys focused on getting back to the championship so I can play again.’ That’s the kind of guy he is, and that’s the locker room and culture we have. It’s unfortunate we weren’t able to get there, but Arty is an adult, Arty is a man, he’ll get through it. He’s in communication with the people he needs to be in communication with.”
From Kyiv to Canada
That includes his parents, Tanya and Marat Terchiyev, who have lived the past six years in Florida, where Arty has spent recent summers.
Among those remaining back home are his grandparents, friends, including former hockey teammates, and other relatives, including his uncle, Ruslan, who played hockey for the Ukrainian national team and professionally.
Artur Terchiyev, who was in Ukraine as recently as last summer, said he calls his grandparents almost daily. Even though they’re about 40 kilometers outside Kyiv, they hear the explosions and gunfire.
“The president, the premier, anyone who is able to fight, is fighting,” Terchiyev said. “It’s terrible to watch. It’s absolutely scary. You recognize some of the buildings you just saw last summer, or growing up, and they either don’t exist anymore or they’re completely shattered. It’s absolutely crazy.”
Terchiyev said he hasn’t felt pressure to return home and join the fight. First off, the logistics would make that incredibly difficult, with no flights going in or out of the country. He’s proud, and he should be. Even by the most conservative of estimates (outside of Russian propaganda), this invasion clearly hasn’t gone according to plan, thanks mostly to the resistance and resolve of the Ukranians themselves.
“I think everyone in the world is seeing the courage and bravery of the Ukrainian people, and it’s been absolutely amazing,” Terchiyev said.
Other than an accent, Terchiyev speaks fluent English, a product of going to a school in Ukraine that was mostly English speaking, and the fact he has lived in North America for most of the last nine years.
Terchiyev moved to Toronto when he was 15 and graduated from Everest Academy in 2015 and started playing junior hockey with the Toronto Jr. Canadiens. He first attracted the attention of the Yellowjackets in September 2017 at the Buffalo (N.Y.) Junior College Showcase and he committed to them that spring.
Terchiyev went on to have a stellar four-year career at UWS, earning All-WIAC honors the past two seasons.
From Superior to Birmingham
Now with the Birmingham Bulls, he shares an apartment with former UWS teammate Coltyn Bates.
“We just go about our day, as normal people would do,” Bates said. “If he brings something up, we talk about it, but for the most part it’s been pretty chill.
“Arty is quiet till you get to know him. We’re really good friends, so we’re pretty comfortable with each other. We like to have a lot of fun, so we’re constantly laughing and messing around most of the day.”
Right after UWS’ season, Terchiyev actually spent about a week with the Worcester (Mass.) Railers of the ECHL before an influx of players led to his release. The stint, however, gave him just enough time to see his younger brother, Tymur, 18, playing hockey in nearby Boston, before it was off to Pelham, Alabama, home of the Bulls.
“I didn’t unpack much,” Artur Terchiyev said, drawing a laugh.
Terchiyev and Bates are joined on the Bulls by former Yellowjacket teammates Troy MacTavish and Jordan Martin. After the last weeks of the SPHL season wind down, Terchiyev will return to UWS and graduate in May with a degree in business administration, with a concentration in management.
Bates said the same traits that help Terchiyev deal with a crisis such as the Russian invasion of his homeland also help make him a great hockey player. Arty stays cool on the ice.
“I’m not surprised by how he’s handled all this,” Bates said. “There is only so much you can do and so much you can control. There’s not really a whole lot you can do when you’re here, and that’s probably the tough part, too. But in my time with Arty, he’s always been like that, really laid-back — control what you can control.
“Obviously, those things (in Ukraine) are bigger than hockey, so to check in with him from time to time is important.”
McKenna called Arty “a warrior,” but even a warrior doesn’t win a war alone.
McKenna has helped build a culture at UWS where the Yellowjackets cover for each other. They’re there for each other, on good days, and bad days, and the worst of days, with the attitude they can get through anything together.
So in the early days of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, when everything looked so grim, so ugly, McKenna reached out to his players as they walked by his office.
“They’d pop in and say, ‘What’s up, coach?’” McKenna said. “And I’d say, ‘With everything that’s going on, make sure guys are there for Arty, give him a fist bump, ask him if everything is good. They were all like, ‘Don’t worry, coach, we already talked about it, we’re good.’ And I’d say, ‘Perfect.’ I’m more proud of that — and it’s more important — than any win this year.”