Men's Olympic Hockey Preview - Latvia

December 29, 2009


Olympic Appearances: 1936, 2002, 2006
Best Finish: 9th (2002)
Total Medals Won: 0
Pool: Russia, Czech Republic, Slovakia

Aside from Norway, Latvia is probably the biggest underdog of the tournament. Featuring only two NHL players, and those of limited talent, the Latvians will be in very very tough to make it to anything resembling even the quarterfinals. Heck, they don't even have Arturs Irbe anymore. It also doesn't help that they play in probably the most well rounded group of the tournament, catching 3 of the '7 Hockey Powers' in Russia, the Czechs and the Slovaks.

The biggest thing that Latvia probably has going for it is its fans. I've never been to a game featuring a Latvian team, but from what I hear, they are absolutly crazy when it comes to their home squad. From a Toronto Star article on the 2008 World Championship:
Team Canada assistant coach Pat Burns was amazed by their raucousness as he watched the U.S. beat Latvia 4-0 Friday. Afterwards, he spoke with his NHL boss, New Jersey Devils president Lou Lamouriello.
"I was talking to Lou, and said, `Can we buy them and bring them to Jersey with us,'" said Burns. "It's their Super Bowl. They take it very seriously. I was just hoping they would get a goal just to see them erupt."
Gotta love that passion, even if it might end up being in a hopeless cause. Considering the tough competition in their group, its pretty likely that the Latvians will go 0-3 through the group stage, setting up a tough matchup for them in the Qualification Stage. Really, the goal for the Latvians should be to try and be the best of the 0-3 group teams, maybe setting up a game in the qualification stage they have a chance of pulling off an upset in. Anyways, onto the roster:

Edgars Masalskis (Dinamo Riga)
Ervins Mustukovs (Dinamo Riga)
Sergejs Naumovs (Dinamo Riga)

Oskars Bartulis (Philadelphia Flyers)
Georgijs Pujacs (Sibir Novosibirsk)
Karlis Skrastins (Dallas Stars)
Arvids Rekis (Wolfsberg)
Krisjanis Redlihs (Dinamo Riga)
Rodrigo Lavins (Dinamo Riga)
Guntis Galvins (Dinamo Riga)
Kristaps Sotnieks (Dinamo Riga)


Herberts Vasiljevs (Krefeld Pinguine)
Janis Sprukts (Dinamo Riga)
Aleksandrs Nizivijs (Dinamo Riga)
Martins Karsums (Norfolk Admirals)
Martins Cipulis (Dinamo Riga)
Girts Ankipans (Dinamo Riga)
Lauris Darzins (Dinamo Riga)
Aleksejs Sirokovs (Amur Khabarovsk)
Mikelis Redlihs (Dinamo Riga)
Kaspars Daugavins (Binghamton Senators)
Armands Berzins (Dinamo Riga)
Gints Meija (Dinamo Riga)

Aside from two NHLers (Bartuli, Skrastin) and two AHLers (Daugavins, Karsums) you'll notice that the vast majority of this team has been formed from Dinamo Riga. I gotta say that I'm a fan of this approach for an underdog team. Considering how short this tournament is, there really isn't that much time for a team to find chemistry and gel. For a team like Canada, the wealth of talent available makes it worthwhile to pick-and-choose elite players. However, for an also-ran like Latvia, picking a team that will already have substantial chemistry is a nice edge to have.

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