Thursday, May 08, 2008

On Latvian hockey fans

Many articles have been written about Latvian hockey fans and their devotion to their team. About 1000 of them travelled to Halifax, Canada for this year's world championships. Others are trying to catch 2:15am Latvian time (8:15pm Halifax) games on TV.

The Latvian hockey fever started in mid-1990s when Latvia was up-and-coming team. It made the top-division world championships in 1997 and managed to tie both that year's champion (Canada) and silver medal winner (Sweden) in its first tournament. A bit more and we might playing for medals - so it looked in those days.

Last 4 years have been mostly downhill from Latvia. From our independence in 1991 until early 2000s, we had the same group of players at the core of our team. Now, almost all of them have retired and we essentially have a new team. Fewer NHL players (only one this year and he is an enforcer). Less impressive list of foreign teams for which our players play. And we are not even close to being able to tie Canada again. The gap between us and the leading teams has grown bigger.

But the fan devotion is still there, even though the team is not doing so well. A surprisingly large number of my friends are staying awake for 2:15am TV games. Win or lose - we are with our team.


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