RIGA – Two of Latvia’s internationally most successful players of the recent years leave the stage. Two months after Sandis Ozolins (see separate story
) also Aleksandrs Nizivijs decided to retire as a player.
The 37-year-old started his professional career just when the Soviet Union collapsed. He played for Pardaugava Riga, which stayed in the Russian Superliga during the first years of Latvia’s independence, before moving to league rivals Torpedo/Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, Dynamo Moscow then back home to Riga 2000, to Bjorkloven Umea in Sweden, Torpedo Nizhni Novgorod in Russia and eventually with the re-establishment of Dinamo Riga as a KHL club in 2008 back to his hometown with only a short loan spell with Lev Prague during the 2012/2013 season. In total Nizivijs competed in the top Russian Superliga/KHL for 17 years.
When he first entered the international stage with the newly formed U18 national team, Latvia hosted the 1993 IIHF U18 European Championship C-Pool on home ice in Riga where it played other former Soviet nations such as Belarus, Ukraine, Estonia and Lithuania and lost to the former two teams while beating the latter two. One year later in Slovenia, the maroon-and-white team beat Ukraine, Croatia, Great Britain, Bulgaria and Slovenia before losing to game for promotion to Slovakia. Nizivijs indicated his talent by contributing 14 goals and five assists in six games. It was the start of a long career that ended this spring with Dinamo Riga and the Latvian national team.
The forward played his first game for the senior national team as a 17-year-old and appeared in three Olympic Winter Games and 15 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championships – 13 of them in the top division – most recently in Minsk 2014. He was named a top-3 player of the Latvian World Championship squads in 2009 and 2011 by the coaching staff.
In 227 international games Nizivijs scored 39 goals and had 90 assists.
While Ozolins – a veteran of over 1,400 games as a professional hockey player, three-time Olympian and Latvia’s only Stanley Cup winner – turns into politics and eyes the Latvian parliament in the October election, Nizivijs stays in hockey and with Dinamo Riga. At Latvia’s KHL representative he will assist head coach Artis Abols, a former national team player and former teammate of his.