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Hockey team blames abysmal performance on mascot

Fans are unhappy with the decision by the Dinamo Riga club to sack its mascot, Jurčiks the Witch (Jurčiks Ragana), threatening to boycott the team's fan sector inside arenas, LETA reported on January 9.

Starting this year the club has forbidden the beloved mascot - in reality, a man named Jurijs Pētersons sporting a witch mask - from entering Riga Dinamo games, saying he brings bad luck.

In the home game on January 8, the fan stands in the match against Sochi were almost empty, with fans watching the game from the third floor in silence, having changed their seats in support of Jurčiks the Witch.

"Yesterday, Riga Dinamo fans expressed solidarity by leaving the fan stands and watching the game from the third floor," said Iveta, head of the Dinam Riga fan club. She said the protest may continue. "Fans are volunteer supporters and cannot be pressured into anything. But I think they'll keep on supporting Jurčiks the Witch," she said.

While Jurijs Pētersons told LETA he has met the club's board and offered to make his character more optimistic, while Dinamo Riga board member Zigmārs Priede had opposed, insisting the mascot should be changed.

"I didn't drive the fans to do that. They came up with this on their own. I thank them for expressing solidarity. Now I know that not only fans need me but the other attendees too," he said.

While formerly praised by the club's head Juris Savickis, the mascot now seems unsuitable for cheering the team.

"Children were afraid from the witch, from time to time. Furthermore we've decided that due to Latvia's centenary we have to find something more suitable, more positive," Savickis told the website. 

There's no talk about a replacement figure yet. 

Jurčiks the Witch had been the mascot for Riga Dinamo since 2004. 

The club's dire record has seen crowds dwindle and interest in the club's fortunes become a matter of decreasing importance among the public. This season, even if the club were to win every single remaining game, the Latvian club could not reach the Kontinental Ice Hockey League playoffs.

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