Ice hockey in Latvia
|Ice hockey in Latvia|
|Association:||Latvijas Hokeja Federācija|
|IIHF member since:||February 22, 1931, between 1947 and 1991 as a member of the USSR|
|First international match:|
Latvia 3-0 Lithuania February 27, 1932 in Riga , Latvia
|Latvia 32-0 Israel March 16, 1993 in Bled , Slovenia
|Latvia 0:14 Canada January 20, 1935 in Davos , Switzerland
|Best place of men:|
|WM:||7th place ( 1997 , 2004 and 2009 )|
|Olympia:||9th place ( 2002 )|
|Best placement of women:|
|WM:||2nd place Division I (11th place overall)|
Ice hockey is considered the most popular sport in Latvia . Latvia has 5,119 registered males - including juniors around 7,000 players - and 74 female ice hockey players , which is around 0.35% of the total population. Ice hockey is organized on a national level by the Latvian Ice Hockey Association. In the IIHF world rankings after the end of the 2019 World Cup , the Latvian men's team is in tenth place, the women in 18th place.
The first ice hockey game on Latvian soil took place on February 15, 1909, with the two teams Union and Strēlnieka Dārzs facing each other. However, it took another 20 years to oust the bandy that had been popular up until then .
In 1929, the Rīgas Strādnieku Sports un Sargs , a sports club of the Socialist-Democratic Workers' Party of Latvia , began to play the so-called Canadian ice hockey instead of bandy . The first official game took place a year later, on February 15, 1930, between Rīga Zentrum and a team from Königsberg . A team member from Rīga was Bruno Kalniņš , who was sitting in the Latvian parliament at the time and was later in political exile in Sweden.
The thirties and forties until the outbreak of World War II
The Latvian Winter Sports Association began to support ice hockey in 1930 and as early as 1931 Latvia was accepted as a member of the "Ligue Internationale de Hockey sur Glace" (LIHG), the forerunner of the IIHF . With the international recognition of the association, various ice hockey clubs emerged in the larger cities, including Universitas Sports, Wanderer, Union, Armijas Sporta Klubs (ASK) from Riga and Olimpiade from Liepāja . The club's Socialists was still before it from the regime of Karlis Ulmanis was closed. The clubs mentioned did not play in a closed league with a fixed schedule, but fought for titles in smaller tournaments. In the early years of Latvian ice hockey, ASK Riga dominated the championship games and became several Latvian champions.
The beginnings of the national team
The first official game of the Latvian national ice hockey team , which was composed of pure amateurs, took place on February 27, 1932. Lithuania was beaten 3-0. Only two weeks later, the national team took part in the European Championship for the first time . The Latvian selection saw one win (3-0 against Romania) and three defeats (0-7 against Czechoslovakia , 0-1 against France and 2-5 against Great Britain ). In the overall ranking, Latvia took eighth place out of nine participating countries.
A year later, the national team debuted at the World Cup in Prague . At the World Championships in 1935 she met Canada for the first time and lost the game 0:14. Latvia took part in the Winter Olympics for the first time in 1936 , but all three games in Garmisch-Partenkirchen were lost: 0:11 against Canada, 2: 9 against Poland and 1: 7 against Austria. The first international match against the USA dates from 1938, when Latvia was able to achieve a respectable 0-1. Further international matches were usually held on the way to or from world championships as part of friendly matches .
In 1939, the Latvian Ice Hockey Federation hired Canadian ice hockey player and physical education teacher Larry Marsh to coach the national team for a month. By 1940, the year of occupation by the Soviet Army and the loss of independence, the Latvian ice hockey selection had played a total of 26 games, including six wins, 16 defeats and four draws with a goal difference of 37:93.
The time of the occupation
The outbreak of World War II and the occupation by the Soviet Union changed Latvian ice hockey, but did not end it: the Soviets dissolved the previous teams and created new ones, for example Dinamo Riga . With the occupation by the Germans two years later, the old teams were re-established, and other teams with typical Latvian names such as "Ledus Lāči, Daugavieši, Skrejošais Holandietis" and "Ledus Simfonija" emerged. No ice hockey was played from 1944 to 1945. In 1946, Latvia was excluded from the LIHG because it belonged to the Soviet Union, and only re-accepted in 1992 after Latvia had founded the Latvian Ice Hockey Association in 1991.
post war period
Before the Second World War, bandy was played in the Soviet Union rather than ice hockey. After the war, the leadership decided to introduce ice hockey instead of bandy, as this was recognized as an Olympic sport . To implement this plan, a Soviet delegation traveled from Moscow to Riga, which returned there with a handwritten Russian translation of the Canadian ice hockey rules. This means that one of the origins of the Russian ice hockey tradition lies in Latvia.
Already two years after the end of the Second World War and the incorporation of Latvia into the Soviet Union, Dinamo Riga began to play under the new name “Daugava Riga” with players from pre-war times in the first Soviet league. In 1948, Harijs Mellups became the league's best goalkeeper and was called up to the Soviet national team. Mellups died in the early 1950s with his clubmates in a plane crash near the Russian city of Sverdlovsk . Not only was he an excellent ice hockey goalkeeper , but he was also a great striker in football , as many athletes played ice hockey in winter and football in summer until the 1950s. In addition to Daugava there were other teams such as Rīgas Vagonbūves Rūpnīca (Club of the Latvian Waggon Works RVR), "Spartaks", "VEF" and Latvijas Bērzs , which played at junior and / or senior level in regional championships. The only top club in Latvia, Daugava, stayed in the top league of the Soviet Union until the 1958/59 season.
Other players from the time before the war emigrated to Germany , where between 1946 and 1949 up to eight Latvians competed in Augsburg under the nickname "Letten-Team". This team won the South German championships in 1948 under the leadership of the Latvian players, before the team later disbanded. Rūdolfs Veide ( German : Rudolf Weide ) began a long and successful career as a player and coach in West Germany. In 1951 he was with the legendary Preussen Krefeld , the German championship win and 1953-1954, he completed 18 caps for the German national team . He later became director of the Duisburg ice rink and supported the development of Duisburg ice hockey. Another member of the Latvian team was Ēriks Koņeckis , who won several German championships as a player and coach and later held the post of national coach.
With Daugava's relegation to the second division, a period of mediocrity began for Latvian ice hockey, which lasted until the end of the 1960s. In 1968 Daugava was renamed Dinamo Riga again. Despite multiple attempts, the club failed to get promoted from the Soviet second division. Apart from some international friendlies against teams from Finland, Dukla Trenčín and Poldi Kladno from Czechoslovakia , Novosibirsk and Ust-Kamenogorsk , no other events from this period are worth mentioning.
The Tikhonov era
The development of Latvian ice hockey got a boost in 1968 with the arrival of the Soviet coach Viktor Tikhonov , who began his legendary coaching career there. Known for his penchant for discipline, he revolutionized training methods by using a video recorder to analyze matches. He also placed great emphasis on the physical fitness of his players. Due to the low playing potential of the Dinamo players, he used a strategy with the creation of four rows of attacks that no Soviet team had used until then. Since this measure increased the breaks between their playing times for the players, the team was able to compensate for technical disadvantages against more highly rated teams through speed and better condition. In 1973 Dinamo Riga was even able to celebrate promotion to the first division after 14 years.
RVR opened a school for ice hockey in 1967 and a little later produced Helmuts Balderis , who was to become a superstar. His nickname was the electric train and, along with Tikhonov, he played a major role in the rise of Dinamo. Together with Tichonow, he moved to CSKA Moscow in 1977 , took part in 1976 with the Soviet national team in the Canada Cup and in five world championships and also won the silver medal at the Olympic Winter Games in Lake Placid . He also won the title of best scorer in the Soviet league twice in his career and was named the best striker of the World Cup once. However, Lake Placid's second place for the USSR team was considered a great failure at home. Balderis was also seen as one of the main culprits for the defeat in the decisive game against Team USA , the so-called Miracle on Ice .
Dinamo Riga remained first class until the collapse of the Soviet Union. The ethnic makeup of the team changed significantly in the 1970s and 1980s, as more and more Russians ousted the Latvians. The goalkeepers Vitālijs Samoilovs and Artūrs Irbe were an exception . Irbe made his debut for Dinamo in the elite league in the 1986/87 season. In the following season, Dinamo Riga was able to celebrate the greatest success in the club's history by winning the Soviet runner-up . With this success, Dinamo was entitled to participate in the Super Series , an annual comparison between teams from the USSR and the National Hockey League , alongside the then Soviet series champion CSKA Moscow . In addition, Irbe and Samoilovs were appointed to the Sbornaja in 1988 . The latter became Olympic champion with the national team in the same year.
The time after 1990
Since the beginning of Mikhail Gorbachev's term of office , the Latvians began increasingly striving for independence . The Latvian Supreme Soviet declared the independence of the Republic of Latvia on May 4, 1990. Latvia was not recognized internationally until after the coup in Moscow in August 1991. Irbe finally became the hero and role model of the Latvians when he took part in the defense of barricades against the Soviet army and later refused to continue playing for the Soviet national team. In the fall of 1991 he signed his first NHL contract with the San Jose Sharks and also won his first game.
Emigrants and returnees
Due to the political turmoil, Latvian ice hockey collapsed and the players dispersed in leagues around the world. Sandis Ozoliņš played in the fall of 1991 for the juniors of the Soviet national team, but began playing in the International Hockey League in 1992 . In the spring of 1992 a scouting camp of the Edmonton Oilers and Boston Bruins was carried out in Rīga, where Sergejs Žoltoks and Grigorijs Panteļejevs were signed. Many other players tried their luck in North America and mostly played in the minor leagues , but without making it into the NHL, so that many returned home. Only a few came on a small number of missions in the NHL, for example Harijs Vītoliņš , Viktors Ignatjevs , Kaspars Astašenko , Raitis Ivanāns , Herberts Vasiļjevs and Panteļejevs. Only Irbe, Ozoliņš, Žoltoks and Kārlis Skrastiņš established themselves permanently in the NHL and some of them still play there today. Other players moved to Western Europe or to the top clubs in Moscow. Harijs Vītoliņš soon returned from North America and played for EHC Chur for many years .
The returnees from North America found a financially troubled country where the ice hockey game was struggling to survive and players suddenly left their teams as soon as they had a chance abroad. During the 1990s there was only one ice rink in Latvia, the time-honored Rīga Sports Palace . Ice hockey teams emerged and disappeared, changing their names with the current main sponsor. Dinamo Riga was renamed Hockey Club Riga, then Riga-Stars (after the sponsor A / S Stars ) and finally Pārdaugava . Initially, the team played in the Russian Interstate League , later in the East European Hockey League , before bankruptcy was filed in 1995. The team was re-established under the name Riga Juniors , and HK Riga 2000 can be seen as Dinamo's current successor .
The new national team
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the IIHF introduced qualifying tournaments for the ice hockey world championship, as many new national associations wanted to take part. The Latvian national team won their qualifying matches in 1992 against their Baltic neighbors Estonia and Lithuania, and a year later they were allowed to take part in the World Cup in Slovenia . The C championship was won with a 2-0 final victory against Ukraine and Latvia rose to the B group.
In the following three years the national team took part in the B World Championships and won the B World Cup in 1996 just ahead of the Swiss . In their first A-group tournament , the Latvians surprised and achieved seventh place. Since then, the Latvian national team has always been among the participants in the A World Cup and has won several victories against the former occupying power, Russia , for example in Saint Petersburg in 2000 and in Finland in 2003 on May 4th, the day when Latvia's independence was declared.
With the success of the national team, ice hockey also grew stronger in Latvia. Little by little, new ice rinks were built and the Latvian league became the strongest Baltic league after the dissolution of the EEHL, in which a team from Lithuania and Estonia each played. Two new arenas, the Skonto Arena and the Riga Arena, were built to host the 2006 Men's Ice Hockey World Championship in Latvia , so that a total of 15 ice rinks were available. With the rise of the league and the improved game and training facilities, many Latvian players returned and the ethnic composition of the teams changed again in favor of the Latvians. National and local youth programs were launched so that the Latvian junior national team was allowed to take part in the U20 World Cup in British Columbia in 2006 . In the same year, the Latvian U18 team was able to win Division I, so that it was first class in 2007 and took part in the U18 A World Championship , but was relegated to Division I again there. At the U20 World Cup in Division I in 2008 , the Latvian U20 selection won the tournament in Riga and thus rose again to the A group. In addition, Kaspars Daugaviņš stood out as the top scorer and Artūrs Kulda was voted the best defender of the tournament.
Dinamo Riga is re-established
As part of the opening of the Russian Super League and renaming it to the Continental Hockey League , a new ice hockey franchise was founded in Riga in April 2008 , called Dinamo Riga , reminding us of the most successful times in Latvian ice hockey. The franchise is owned by several companies and individuals, including Itera Latvija (Latvian gas company owned by Gazprom ), Guntis Ulmanis (the fifth President of Latvia), Aigars Kalvītis (former Prime Minister of Latvia) and Aldis Pauniņš . In addition to some foreign players, especially Latvian national players such as Edgars Masaļskis , the Rēdlihs brothers and Aleksandrs Ņiživijs were hired to increase the Latvians' identification with this new club. A cooperation agreement was signed with HK Riga 2000 , which provides for a player exchange between the two clubs. The aim is to give young and convalescent players in particular the opportunity to gain practical experience in a farm team .
The 2008/09 season of the KHL began on September 2, 2008 with the game Dinamo Riga against Amur Chabarowsk , where Aleksandrs Ņiživijs scored the 1-0 and thus the first goal in the history of the KHL. At the end of the main round, Dinamo finished tenth in the table and reached the play-off eighth-finals, where the team was eliminated in three games against HK Dynamo Moscow .
Venues through the ages
As in many other countries, ice hockey was first played on frozen lakes and later on flooded and frozen outdoor surfaces. As a result, you were always dependent on the current weather and many games had to be played or canceled in poor conditions. In addition, the game was still played without boards and the players had to look for the puck on the edge of the field in snowdrifts. The first artificial lighting, which also allowed games and training in the evenings, was installed by the Army Club in 1934. The first open-air ice rink in Latvia was opened in 1950 with the “Daugava” stadium in Rīga, which held 4,500 spectators. Artificial ice was only introduced in 1960, and although the first indoor ice rinks were built in Canada as early as the late 19th century, Latvia's first ice rink, Rīgas Sporta pils , wasn't inaugurated until 1970.
Ice Hockey World Championship 2006
On October 15, 2001, the President of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), René Fasel , the IIHF Secretary Jan-Åke Edvinsson , the Latvian Prime Minister Andris Bērziņš , Riga's Mayor Gundars Bojārs and the President of the Latvian Ice Hockey Federation, Kirovs Lipmans , signed one Contract for hosting the 2006 Ice Hockey World Championship in Riga, Latvia. Latvia undertook to build a new ice rink up to six months before the start of the event. As there was a certain mistrust of the organizational ability of the Latvian administration, the Swedish Ice Hockey Federation was chosen as the substitute host. In July 2004 the title fights were finally confirmed in Latvia.
In March 2006 the Riga Arena (capacity: 11,000 spectators) required by the IIHF was inaugurated with a game of the Belarusian open championship between HK Riga 2000 and Khimvolokno Mahiljou . The Skonto Arena (6,500 spectators), which is located in the Skonto Sports Complex and is a converted sports hall, which has been partially equipped with temporary stands, was used as the second venue . As a test run for the organization was the implementation of the U18 World Cup of Division I of the same year, in which the Latvian U18 selection won the tournament.
The men's ice hockey world championship took place from May 5th to 21st, 2006. In addition to the defending champion Czech Republic, Canada, Russia, Sweden, Slovakia, USA, Finland, Switzerland, hosts Latvia, Belarus, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Slovenia, Denmark and the two newcomers Norway and Italy took part.
With their victory against the Czechs in the final, the Swedish national team became the first national team ever to win the gold medal in the Olympic ice hockey tournament and become ice hockey world champion in the same year . It was the eighth title win for the Scandinavians.
Latvian ice hockey league
Latvia is one of the smaller member countries of the IIHF with currently (2017) a total of 6,699 registered ice hockey players, including 1,888 juniors and 101 women. There are also 185 registered ice hockey referees in the country. The Latvian Ice Hockey League ( Latvijas Atklātais čempionāts , German Open Latvian Championship), which was called "Samsung premjerlīga" between 2006 and 2008 due to the sponsorship of Samsung , was founded in 1931. The first Latvian master was Rīgas Unions . Between 1946 and 1990, the year of the Latvian declaration of independence, no official Latvian championship was played, although an annual tournament was held.
Until 1990 the Latvian league was a pure amateur league , today it is a league with professionals and semi-professionals playing in a total of six clubs. One of the participating clubs is the Lithuanian club SC Energija , which entered the league in 2003. In addition to the series champion HK Riga 2000 , another team from Riga took part, the SK Riga 20 . This team was almost entirely made up of members of the Latvian U20 national team. After the Belarusian ice hockey association decided in summer 2008 to reopen its top division (the extra league ) to foreign teams, the four best Latvian teams moved to Belarus. Since then, the new game mode initially provides for a two-part championship, with the four best teams in the Latvian league and the four participants in the Belarusian extra league playing out the Latvian championship in the form of play-offs at the end of the season. As a result of the economic crisis in 2009, HK Riga went bankrupt in 2000 and was dissolved. As a result, the former SK Riga 20 was incorporated into the Dinamo Riga club and will henceforth play as Dinamo-Juniors Riga .
Below the Latvian ice hockey league there is a second and third division and an amateur league in which nine teams fought for the title in the 2006/07 season.
Women ice hockey
The Latvian national women's team has been taking part in international championships since 1993 and won the B-European championship in the same year, so that in 1995 it was allowed to take part in the A-European championship of the IIHF. This tournament was held in Riga and the women of the Latvian Federation only achieved sixth place, so that the Latvian selection relegated to the B group. A year later, however, the team was able to celebrate the runner-up in the B-EM.
From 1999, the field of participants in the A World Championship was increased. However, the Latvian women were only able to achieve a lower rank in the qualifying tournament for the A World Championship , so that they have since played in the B group of the IIHF World Championship and mostly occupy places in the midfield.
The players in the national team are mainly recruited from the two top clubs in Latvian women's ice hockey, SHK Laima Riga and IceGirls. In 2007, two players were also under contract with the Russian women's team Tornado Moscow , which became Russian champions in the 2006/07 season . SHK Laima Riga has already taken part in the IIHF European Women Champions Cup several times and in October 2007 took part in the second round tournament in Berlin .
In addition to the SHK Laima Riga and the IceGirls, there is a third women's team, LSK Liepāja . These three teams play the Latvian women's championship among themselves, whereby in 2006 the team from SHK Laima was able to secure the title.
In Latvia, ice hockey is a national sport , alongside which only basketball and football are important. During the times of Dinamo Riga's greatest successes, fans would queue up all night to get tickets to the games. In contrast, the clubs were not able to attract very few fans to the stadiums in the 1990s, whereas the national team has become more and more popular since it was founded. Large numbers of Latvian fans make the pilgrimage to every World Cup and support their national team. Up to 5,000 Latvian fans travel across Europe to support their team with “Latvija” shouts and noise devices, even though Latvia is one of the poorest countries in the European Union . They come by trains, buses or car pools and usually cannot afford to stay in hotels. "In Oslo you saw them in buses and sleeping outside," said IIHF President René Fasel in 1999 about the fans he described as the best in the world.
During the 2000 World Cup, the Latvian parliament even suspended its sessions so that politicians could watch the national team's games on television. After the 3-2 victory over Russia, members of the opposition and ruling party embraced each other and sang together.
At the 2006 World Cup in their own country, the otherwise fair Latvian fans caused a scandal when the game had to be interrupted several times to clear the ice in the 11-0 defeat of the Latvian selection against Canada. The audience felt that professional referee Rick Looker was at a disadvantage in the first third, as he pronounced many penalty times against the Latvian team, which the Canadians also used to score goals. The audience was so angry that towards the end of the first period they started tossing objects (including a sneaker and hard money) on the ice. Looker had no other choice and preferred the first third break so that the audience could calm down and the ice could be cleaned. So after the break, the rest of the first third could be played and the second third played without any further incidents. But in the third third, objects were thrown onto the ice again after another penalty period. Looker sent the players off the ice again. To calm the situation, the Latvian player Jānis Sprukts spoke to the audience over the stadium loudspeakers: "Of course the referee makes a lot of mistakes and we are not happy either, but please don't throw any objects on the ice." After that, the game could be played without any further disturbance Audience to be terminated.
Latvians in the National Hockey League
A total of 23 Latvians (three goalkeepers and 20 field players) have already stood on the ice in the National Hockey League . The first was Helmuts Balderis , who came to the Minnesota North Stars at the age of 36 to play for them in the 1989/90 season. Sandis Ozoliņš , Artūrs Irbe , Sergejs Žoltoks and Kārlis Skrastiņš are the most successful among them, Ozoliņš being the only Latvian winner of the Stanley Cup when he won it in the 1995/96 season with the Colorado Avalanche . Ozoliņš and Irbe have also played in NHL All-Star Games . The other Latvian NHL players are Aleksandrs Kerčs , Grigory Panteļejevs , Peteris Skudra , viktors ignatjevs , Herberts Vasiļjevs , Kaspars Astašenko , raitis ivanāns , Janis Sprukts , Mārtiņš Karsums , Harijs Vītoliņš , Kaspars Daugaviņš and Arturs Kulda .
Sergejs Žoltoks was considered one of the best Latvian players of all time. He was the Latvians' best scorer at the 2004 World Cup in the Czech Republic and had 633 NHL games for Boston , Ottawa , Montreal , Edmonton , Minnesota and Nashville until the NHL lockout in the 2004/05 season . He began his professional career in the Soviet league at what was then Dinamo Riga. During the lockout in the NHL , he played for Dinamo's successor club HK Riga 2000 in the Belarusian open league and thus waived lavish salaries in Russia or Western Europe in favor of the club in his hometown. His first heart problems were diagnosed at the NHL clubs and he suffered a serious heart attack during an away game in Minsk . On November 3, 2004, the center died of heart failure at the age of 31. The resuscitation attempts by the doctors failed and Žoltoks died in the dressing room.
Latvians in the NHL Entry Draft
The first Latvian player in an NHL draft was Viktors Hatuļevs from Dinamo Riga in 1975 , but he never got the chance to play in the NHL. In 2012 , with offensive player Zemgus Girgensons , a Latvian player was selected for the first time in the first round.
With Red stored player at least one NHL game have denied
Statistics of Latvian NHL players
Sandis Ozoliņš is the Latvian record holder in all categories with more than 800 NHL appearances. Kārlis Skrastiņš temporarily held the NHL record for most consecutive games by a defender . Skrastiņš died in 2011 in a plane crash near Yaroslavl .
Abbreviations: Sp = games, Pos = position, T = goals, A = assists , Pkt = points, PIM = penalty minutes; Bold: best value Players
with a green background are active in the NHL in 2019. (As of the end of the 2018/19 season )
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