Latvian Hockey News Report

By Didzis Rudmanis

Archive for the ‘Kontinental Hockey League’ Category

Dinamo releases Mikus

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Kontinental Hockey League club Dinamo Riga has released Slovakian center forward Juraj Mikus, who joined Dinamo late in September, after failing to make the Spartak Moscow roster due to import quota. Now, however, Mikus is rejoining Spartak.

Juraj Mikus was a part of Spartak’s pre-season camp, however he failed to make the roster, because of the import quota set by the league. Instead, in late September he joined Dinamo Riga. He was signed so that Brock Trotter could play his primary position – left wing, but, unfortunately, Mikus performance wasn’t as good as expected, he was largely disliked by the Dinamo supporters and, finally, was released from the club. Mikus earned 5 (3+2) points in 22 games with Dinamo.

Now, as Spartak already for some time has a new head coach Igors Pavlovs (Milos Riha was fired) and as the club has released Martin Cibak and Jaroslav Obsut, a vacant foreigner place on the team’s roster opened up.

Written by Didzis Rudmanis

November 29, 2010 at 20:22

Neftekhimik signs Maris Jass

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Kontinental Hockey League club Neftekhimik Niznekamsk has signed 25-year-old Latvian defender Maris Jass, who played for HK 36 Skalica of the Slovakian Extraleague.

After the previous season, when Neftekhimik finished fourth in the Eastern Conference, the team is currently struggling to maintain its place in the play-off zone, as it is currently placed eight with 35 points in 24 games. The head coach Vladimir Krikunov, who played for Dinamo Riga in the 1980’s, decided that a change was desirable – as Jass was signed, Neftekhimik released Slovakian defender Peter Mikus from the team.

Maris Jass has already previously played in Russia – in 2005-06, when the KHL was not yet established, he played 14 games for Lada Togliatti. For the most of his career Jass played for Metalurgs Liepaja – a Latvian club, which had and has been playing in the Eastern European Hockey League (folded in 2004), as well as both Belarussian Extraleague and Latvian league. He has also played for HC Slavia Praha of the Czech Extraleague, however since the beginning of 2009-10 he was playing in the Slovak Extraleague.

He has also appeared on international stage, playing for the Latvian national team at the 2006 and 2010 World Championships, as well as two U20 and one U18 Championship.

SKA ready for the Winter Classic

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Just days ago it was announced that the regular season game between Dinamo Riga and SKA St. Petersburg, planned on January 16, 2011, might be held in an outdoor stadium, thus becoming the first-ever KHL Winter Classic, as Arena Riga is already pre-occupied. Now, several days later, SKA has confirmed that they would be ready for such a game, reports TVNET.

Zigmars Priede, the Director of Hockey Operations of the club, said that also the league has mutually agreed that such a game would be organized. Now, according to Priede, Dinamo Riga is putting together the possible expenses, in order to see, whether the club can afford to organize such a game.

Let me just remind you that it is proposed the game could take place in the Skonto Stadium, just a couple of hundred metres away from Arena Riga. Skonto Stadium, built in 2000, is the national soccer stadium of Latvia, with a seating capacity of only 10,000 [just says how popular soccer is in Latvia]. The other options include playing the game in Liepaja Ice Arena or Ice Arena, both having a capacity of only around 1000 seats.

The original story: A KHL Winter Classic in Riga?

Written by Didzis Rudmanis

November 4, 2010 at 21:37

A KHL Winter Classic in Riga?

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On January 16, 2011 the first-ever Kontinental Hockey League Winter Classic might take place in Riga, Latvia. As of now it is only one of the proposals, where to host the Dinamo Riga – SKA St. Petersburg regular season game, as Arena Riga, due to a concert for Latvian composer Raimonds Pauls 75th anniversary, is already occupied, reports Kas Jauns.

It is proposed that the game could take place in the Skonto Stadium, just a couple of hundred metres away from Arena Riga. Skonto Stadium, built in 2000, is the national soccer stadium of Latvia, with a seating capacity of only 10,000 [just says how popular soccer is in Latvia]. The other options include playing the game in Liepaja Ice Arena or Ice Arena, both having a capacity of only around 1000 seats.

Up until now, Dinamo Riga has played five of its home games outside Arena Riga – in the autumn of 2008-09 two games were held in Ice Arena and another two were played in Espoo, Finland, while last season, also due to arena being already occupied by other event, one game against Severstal Cherepovets was held in Liepaja. serves also as the training facility for both Dinamo Riga and HK Riga.

“As of now, a decision has not been made, because it is only one of the proposals. Of course, we would really appreciate playing againsta SKA in Arena Riga, but we very well understand that maestro [Raimonds Pauls] has an anniversary,” said Zigmars Priede, the Director of Hockey Operations. “That would be nothing new, as the world has already experience of organising such games.”

This game would not become the first Kontinental Hockey League game under clear sky, as the first-ever KHL All-Star game in 2009 was held in Red Square, Moscow. Unfortunately, at the time temperature in Moscow was far below zero [approx. -20 °C] and the game attracted only around 2000 spectators. Luckily, January in Riga should not be as tough.

Podzins: Is there a reason to be nervous about?

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In an interview to, Ainars Podzins, who was drafted by Dinamo Riga this summer, thus moving back from Russia to his native Latvia, talks about his time in Riga, about playing for Dinamo and his first game in the KHL. We now present you a fragment of the interview, kindly translated by Alessandro Seren Rosso.

Were you nervous before your first KHL game?

Podzins: “Well, is there a reason to be nervous about? I was brought as the thirteenth forward. I was just watching the game. Though I wasn’t nervous when, during the game against Neftekhimik, they said me: ‘Podzins, get ready, it’s your turn.’ We were winning 6-3. And I got to play two shifts. I am really satisfied about them. I had a shot, I gave a pass, and I played only two minutes. They iced me in the first line with [Mark] Hartigan and [Tomas] Surovy, at [Aleksandrs] Nizivijs’ place. The greatest thing was that they congratulated me more than Karsums, who scored two goals in two games. I could think I won the Olympic Games. I got to the bench and looked at our masseur, and he says ‘Podzins, you did that?’ And everyone from the team congratulated, ‘Bravo Podzins, well done’.”

You’ve got some interesting nicknames.

Podzins: “Yes, they call me ‘Poga’ [meaning a ‘button’ in Latvian], which is similar to my surname. But the most popular is ‘Stallone’, [Vitaly] Karamnov called me that way when he saw me without a jersey for the first time. I’m not that big, but I am well-built.”

Next to whom do you sit in the locker room?

Podzins: “I sit next to veterans, next to [Girts] Ankipans, not far from Nizivijs.

Do you talk more with the younger players?

Podzins: “Oddly enough I don’t. I mostly talk with veterans, especially with Ankipans, we sit next each other. I also try to talk with foreigners, but my English is very bad.”

But do you talk with them?

Podzins: “Yeah, I think [Mark] Hartigan already grow tired of me.”

How come?

Podzins: “For some time we were living at the same hotel, and I didn’t know when we had the practice. So I went to his room, and I saw that he was sleeping. So I excused myself and asked, and he said: ‘in two hours’, then he shut the door. Then later a foreigner asked him: ‘Mark, how did you sleep?’ And he replied: ‘Good, until I was awakened’.”

How do you like Riga?

Podzins: “It’s astounding! In Latvia they love hockey. Can you imagine that someone would ask me an autograph after a game? But if [former NHL star Sandis] Ozolins or Nizivijs arrive, then 30-40 persons would arrive in no time, and they can’t literally get out. They have crazy fans.”

Where do you live?

Podzins: “I live in an apartment in Piņķi at the second floor. At the first floor live other two guys from HK Riga, Martins Jakovlevs and Eriks Sevcenko. Everything is at high level. I can get to the practices on feet and they always bring me to the games.”

Did you have any problems with the language?

Podzins: “It was strange at the start. I went to the locker room and everyone was talking in Latvian. Now I’m used to it. Everyone talks to me in Russian. Practices in both the main team and in the junior teams are run in Russian language. But if I sit with other five Latvians, they talk in their own language. And I literally know only a couple of words.”

Will you learn the language?

Podzins: “I’ve already promised that to the fans! But now I have no time, I’m always playing. It would be easier if everyone would talk to me in Latvian, I’d quickly learn many words.”

You dreamed for the whole life to play for Dinamo. And now you play for them. Is it like you

Podzins: “It’s even better! I’m happy because my dream came true. In spite, I’m the youngest player of the team everyone treats me very well. They take care about everything and you only have to play. The coaches and the players, in both first and junior team, make everything possible so that you can really develop and I’m very grateful for this.”

Coyotes clinch victory in Riga

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This evening Arena Riga, packed with both fans and journalists from all over the world, hosted the third-ever KHL-NHL game, in which Phoenix Coyotes, without putting much too effort in it, won Dinamo Riga 3:1. The only one to score for Dinamo was Mark Hartigan.

Already since the very first minutes of the game Coyotes had the edge of the game on their side. During the first ten minutes Riga managed to take only one shot on Bryzgalov’s net, but Coyotes managed to turn their dominance into a goal only late in the period, when Taylor Pyatt scored after a rebound from Tellqvist’s pads.

Although also during the beginning of the second period Coyotes still maintained the puck and produced goal-scoring chances, it was the Dinamo Riga, who scored. Right after both team swapped goalies, Brock Trotter set up a goal for Mark Hartigan, who defeated Jason LaBarbera. However, late in the period Petr Prucha regained the lead, scoring the second goal for Phoenix.

During the third period nothing much changed and Dinamo was still clearly outbeaten, the defense of Dinamo was slowly falling apart, which gave an opportunity for Lee Stempniak to score the third goal of the game. If it was not for Chris Holt, who received the game-MVP award, the result could have become embarassing.

This was already the tenth Dinamo Riga game against NHL clubs, as Riga played in several Soviet-NHL series in the 1980’s. Phoenix was the first club in Riga since Montreal Canadiens, who played in Latvia already twenty years ago.

Amur reassigns Sirokovs

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After a meager beginning of the season, Kontinental Hockey League club Amur Khabarovsk has reassigned Latvian forward Aleksejs Sirokovs to its farm club – Amur-2 Khabarovsk of the Russian First (third-tier) league.

Sirokovs already missed couple of the previous games, playing in seven out of eleven games this season. So far Sirokovs managed to score a goal and add another assist. Head coach Sergei Svetlov commented that currently Sirokovs is weaker than other Amur center forwards.

Similarly, Martins Cipulis, who also plays for Amur this season, has began it rather unsuccessfully, having only one assists in eight games and a +/- of -6 at the moment.

Cipulis consecutive game streak ends

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After playing 130 consecutive KHL games, Amur Khabarovsk’s Latvian forward Martins Cipulis was not dressed for today’s game against Salavat Yulaev Ufa, ending his impressive streak.

Cipulis was only one of 13 KHL players, which did not miss a single game during the first two league’s seasons. The league is currently led by three Lokomotiv Yaroslavl’s players – Josef Vasicek, Ivan Tkachenko and Gennady Churilov, who have all as of now played 154 consecutive games. Before ending his streak, Latvian forward was ranked in the seventh place.

However, Cipulis still owns the Dinamo Riga consecutive game record – 124 games. He is currently chased down by Mikelis Redlihs, whose active streak is currently set at 114 games.

This is a list of Dinamo Riga’s top consecutive game streaks (streaks in bold are still active):

  • 124 – Martins Cipulis – 2008-2010
  • 114 – Mikelis Redlihs – 2008-2010
  • 83 – Marcel Hossa – 2009-2010
  • 75 – Lauris Darzins – 2008-2009
  • 56 – Lauris Darzins – 2009-2010
  • 52 – Aleksandrs Nizivijs – 2008-2009
  • 44 – Rodrigo Lavins – 2008-2009
  • 43 – Mark Hartigan – 2008-2009
  • 40 – Girts Ankipans – 2008-2009
  • 38 – Janis Sprukts – 2009-2010
  • 37 – Armands Berzins – 2008-2009
  • 34 – Matt Ellison – 2008-2009
  • 34 – Mike Iggulden – 2009-2010
  • 32 – Aleksandrs Nizivijs – 2009-2010
  • 31 – Aigars Cipruss – 2008-2009
  • 31 – Rodrigo Lavins – 2009
  • 31 – Rodrigo Lavins – 2009-2010
  • 30 – Girts Ankipans – 2009

Andersons and Stals reassigned to Metalurgs

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Dinamo Riga players defender Janis Andersons and forward Juris Stals, after returning from an away tour in Russia, have both been reassigned to Belarusian Extraleague club Metalurgs Liepaja, located 200 kilometers away from Riga.

Neither of the players have played a single game for Dinamo, however they both traveled to an away tour in Russia, in order to be ready to step into the roster, in case of injuries. Along them, also junior players Vitaly Karamnov and Ainars Podzins were with the team. Moreover, Podzins has been dressed for each and every game so far, but had the chance to participate in the actual game only tonight, during the 6:3 win over Neftekhimik Niznekamsk.

Metalurgs Liepaja has already played six regular season games, winning half of them. After many rumours during summer, in August Dinamo Riga signed an agreement with Metalurgs Liepaja, so that Dinamo might reassign up to five players to Liepaja, having no rights to call up a player signed by Metalurgs.

Hossa: “It is Russia after all”

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Today Arena Riga experienced it’s first 2010/11 KHL regular season game. The arena was overcrowded, however, in a game, which you could describe only as a hockey carousel, Dinamo Riga lost 4:5 in a shootout to Ak Bars Kazan, two time Gagarin Cup champion and the new home for Riga’s cult player Marcel Hossa. In a close collaboration with Baltā olimpiāde, we now offer you a post-game interview with Marcel.

Many fans and journalists were anticipating this game only to see you in action. How do you feel playing at front of the Riga fans?

– It was indeed very gratifying to return to Riga, moreover, to play at a season opening game here. Atmosphere in Arena Riga is always first rate. Fans had treated me very well during those past two seasons. Even tonight: they chanted my name – it was kind of cool. Hockey is my life, but I now play for Ak Bars and need to look at other direction. Riga is my second home city, where I will always return with joy.

Yes, now a new city is knocking at your life’s front door – Kazan – a new country, a different culture…

– Of course, there are certain differences regarding culture in Kazan. Riga is far more European. You know, it is Russia after all… However, I have no problems in Kazan, Ak Bars is a great organization and I can get anything I need.

About tonight’s game, Ak Bars scored two early goals. How did it affect the rest of the game? Because later Riga managed to respond with four goals, but in the end the victory was clinched by Ak Bars anyway.

– We managed to begin the game admirably well. Still, we must learn from our mistakes… We can’t play the same level of hockey for the whole three periods… Now we have two tough games ahead of us – in Minsk and Moscow.

What do you expect from yourself this season?

– I want to play at the Gagarin Cup Finals and keep on scoring goals. Kazan is a two-time Gagarin Cup champion, but there is still a very long way until the third cup to be hoisted…

Finally, how much do you stay in touch with your old teammates from Dinamo Riga?

– We call each other once in a while. One must understand that players do not have too much spare time during the season. I have the best relationships with Sergejs Naumovs, Aleksandrs Nizivijs and Mark Hartigan.