Monday, February 09, 2009


Latvia is heading to Vancouver. Your correspondents witnessed the second of three games in the qualifying tournament here in Riga, when the home town team faced Ukraine, thought to be their fiercest competitors in the group. They emerged victorious in a tense 4-2 battle, sealed only by an empty-net goal in the final minute. They also defeated Hungary and Italy to move on to the Olympics in 2010.

Hockey is a fun sport to watch, and it certainly helps that Latvia has a team that punches far above the weight one would expect from a nation of 2 million souls. Perhaps more important are the famously boisterous Latvian hockey fans, who impressed even the Canadians for their dedication, knowledge of the game, and willingness to travel from Eastern Europe to Halifax, Nova Scotia, of all places, to cheer their team on to barely avoiding relegation out of the top division for the 2009 competition.

On Friday evening, they cheered constantly, with all variety cheers shoe-horning "Latvia" into both what would be two-syllable and three-syllable cheers in English. Well done, boys.

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