The Latvian ice hockey players returned from the world championship at noon on a flight from Tampere. In Riga, a special honoring event was held at the Freedom Monument, with an estimated 30,000 people attending. The area around the monument and the surrounding streets and nearby areas were crowded. Hockey fans did not leave the grounds of the monument even after the hockey professionals had left.
Medaļnieki ir mājās! 🥉 Desmitiem tūkstoši cilvēku pie Brīvības pieminekļa sagaida un sveic Latvijas hokeja izlasi, kas pēc panākumiem Pasaules hokeja čempionātā atgriezusies Latvijā 🇱🇻#hokejs #hokejs2023 #IIHFWorlds pic.twitter.com/1MaWgTnkf6— Latvijas Radio Ziņas (@LRZinas) May 29, 2023
Rīga Mayor Mārtiņš Staķis addressed the gathering and stressed that Rīga deserved the return of the championship. The Chairman of the Saeima, Edvards Smiltēns, said that a holiday had been granted on Monday so that everyone would remember the event.
The president of the Latvian Hockey Federation, Aigars Kalvītis, the head coach of the team, Harijs Vītoliņš, team captain Kaspars Daugaviņšs, coach and legendary goalkeeper Artūrs Irbe, and the most valuable player and goalkeeper of this world championship, Artūrs Šilovs, thanked the fans. Then came a performance by the Brainstorm band.
According to State Police estimates, at least 30,000 fans had gathered at the Freedom Monument event in Riga. VP spokeswoman Simone Graves said that overall the event passed without major incidents, yet police continued to monitor public order and security in the city.
After the event at the Freedom Monument, the hockey team went to Rīga Castle, to the reception of the President of Latvia, Egils Levits. The president handed the presidential medal to every member of the team.
“You gave the people a sense of unity for a moment that we belong together, and such times are rare,” Levits said.