Daugavins celebrates winning return
by Andy Potts|28 MAY 2023
Latvia's captain Kaspars Daugavins with his bronze medal at the 2023 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship, Finland - Latvia.
Kaspars Daugavins was not supposed to be here. Latvia’s captain, a veteran of 10 previous World Championship campaigns, called time on his international career after the Beijing Olympics. 

In Tampere, though, he helped his country secure its first ever medal in World Championship play. The lure of a tournament on home ice in Riga, the prospect of his children getting a chance to see him in action in front of a big crowd, and the frustrations of watching the 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship from his couch all combined to persuade Daugavins to return.

That made it an even more emotional triumph for the 35-year-old – although his first thoughts were about Latvia’s passionate army of hockey fans.

“It’s my 11th championship, and it’s the first time I even made the playoffs,” he said. “Being here winning a medal is something special.

“For many years it felt like we never gave it back to our crowd that comes to support us all. The whole country is always behind us, and we never managed to give them a medal.

“Finally, now we have something to bring home, to give belief back to Latvian hockey and to our people.”

Those people are set to put on a heroes’ welcome for team Latvia when it flies home on Monday lunchtime. Even before the bronze medal game was played, the Latvian Hockey Federation announced plans for the team to greet the public at the Freedom Monument in downtown Riga at 1 pm local time. Daugavins can’t wait for the party.

“It's going to be fun,” he said. “We fly out tomorrow morning and a lot of people will miss work to come and see us. We feed off them and they feed off us. Finally, it’s working out together. We’re happy and we want to get home to celebrate.”

Daugavins had an assist on the winning goal in the bronze medal game, powering into USA territory and firing in a shot that rebounded for Kristians Rubins to pot a tally that will live long in Latvian sporting history.

And his own return to scoring form here proved that the one-time Ottawa Senator and Boston Bruin made the right decision in rejoining the national team. Daugavins failed to contribute any goals in his last World Championship campaign in 2021, nor at the 2022 Beijing Olympics, but weighed in with 7 (3+4) points in Riga and Tampere.

However, it was Rubins’ contribution that got Daugavins talking after the game.

“Wow, what a day for him! He scored probably the biggest two goals in Latvian hockey history!” said the captain. 

“I’m just super happy for him. He had a tough season, he expected to probably play games in the NHL and battled through in the American League. Then he comes in for that last game in the group stage against Switzerland, and you all saw the rest.” 

Having retired from international play once, Daugavins is not ready to make another statement about his future. Right now, it’s all about savouring the moment.

“It feels like we’re still dreaming and it’s going to feel like that for a couple of days,” he concluded. “We did so much work. We never got past the quarter-final before and now we have a medal at the first try. It’s something special.”