You snooze, you lose
by Andrew Podnieks|03 JAN 2023
Austria and Latvia battle it out in the relegation round.
photo: Matt Zambonin / IIHF
Nobody can tell a story about an early hockey game the way the members of the 1960 U.S. Olympic team can. That year’s Olympics, at Squaw Valley, California, featured America’s greatest hockey achievement to that date. They beat Czechoslovakia, Sweden, Canada, and the Soviet Union and had one game left on the final day of the Games – against the Czechoslovaks again – to seal the gold medal.

Time of the game at Blyth Arena: 8:00am. 

So when Latvia and Austria were asked to play the first game of the Relegation Round best-of-three at 10:30am on Monday in Halifax, it didn’t sound that bad. But it still required some adjustments.

“It's different from playing at 7 o’clock at night,” admitted Austrian forward Tim Geifes. “We had to wake up early and got a quick walk in to get some fresh air, get the system going. Lots of coffee. It was kind of tough to get up, but as you get going the body gets ready.”

What exactly is “early”? “It was a 6.30 breakfast,” he explained after being on the wrong end of a 5-2 decision, “so we got some food in us, but not too much before the game. We had to adjust, but so did the Latvians. I'm pretty hungry right now, to be honest. I can't wait to get some food into me!”

The Austrians jumped into a 1-0 lead in the first and led 2-1 after 20 minutes, and the game time was not lost on Latvian forward Dans Locmelis. “The game was an early start, so I think we weren't fully awake at the start. We came out stronger in the second, and we didn't give them many chances.”

Indeed, Latvia rallied for an impressive win, but perhaps it was the power breakfast that helped? “We had to wake up four hours before the game, not my favourite thing, to wake up early,” Locmelis continued. “We had the same food we would normally have – pasta with a Bolognese sauce and chicken. It was kind of weird, but it was good. We had some snacks in the dressing room as well.”

For Sandis Vilmanis, however, it was no big deal. “It's nothing special, really. We are hockey players. We have to wake up early all the time. We were ready to go and win the game. We just woke up at 6:25, got dressed, washed our face, and went for a walk.”

The Austrians and Latvians will continue the best-of-three Relegation Round on Wednesday. This time at 11:00am.