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Vladimir Nikitin Spends First Christmas in Canada

Nikitin builds his first gingerbread house with his billet family.

While many people are enjoying old traditions in December, Vladimir Nikitin was experiencing new ones.

At the beginning of the month, the Chilliwack Chiefs goaltender led his home country, Kazakhstan, to promotion to the Top Division at the IIHF World U20 Division I Championship. The Ottawa Senators prospect went 4-0-0 with a .956 save percentage and 1.25 goals allowed average. After a memorable tournament, the 18-year-old flew from Budapest to Chilliwack to spend his first holiday season in Canada.

The Wiebe family (Larissa, Chris, and Max) have been billets for 10 seasons. Nikitin is their eighth billet. It is not every Christmas their billet player stays home for the holidays, so the Wiebe’s were excited to spend it with ‘Vladdy,’ whom they consider family. And when you’re family, you get presents addressed from Santa (of course), but more importantly, the family dog.

The Wiebe’s waited for Nikitin to arrive from the World U20 Championship to make sure he was included in all the festivities. Nikitin also introduced them to traditions from back home, which created a beautiful blended Christmas. Decorating gingerbread houses, a walk through District 1881 in Chilliwack, and gatherings with the Wiebes’ extended family were all part of the Christmas cheer. A favourite of the Wiebe family is their annual fun socks. If you’re wondering, Nikitin’s had Cheetos on them!

Even on a break from the game, there is no holiday season complete without hockey, is there? The Wiebe’s got tickets for the January 2nd Canucks and Senators game so they could watch his NHL team together. Despite Ottawa’s loss, it was valuable bonding time.

Even though he had a busy month, Nikitin says “There is no time for relaxation.” He values preparedness and focus throughout the season, even on a break.

Despite being eager to get back, the Wiebe’s got to bask in the Christmas spirit for longer this year because of Vladdy. In Kazakhstan, the tree and decorations stay up till after January 7th. Orthodox Christmas marks the official end. The celebrations weren’t quite over yet, because January 7th also happened to be Nikitin’s 19th birthday.

Larissa Wiebe described him as a “Modest, hardworking, and thoughtful young man who is appreciative of those around him.” The Wiebe’s love having Nikitin in their home, and cherished the special Christmas they had with their new member of the family.

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