Latvians push countryman ahead in NHL All-Star voting

Take note – story published 8 years ago

North American sports media have been surprised by the opening voting results for the line-up of the ongoing National Hockey League’s annual NHL All-Star Game, where Latvian fans have propelled Buffalo Sabres center Zemgus Girgensons, their only countryman in the professional league, ahead of more famous and better-performing stars, to the top of the list by almost 160,000 votes already.

The end of the vote comes January 1, when the top six favorites, three of them forward position players like Zemgus, get named to the January 25 scheduled game.

The 20-year old athlete’s emergence from obscurity in just a few days is attributed to the fact that Girgensons is from Latvia, where presumably due to unfairly advantagous time-zone differences and excellent telecommunications services Latvia’s rabid but good-natured hockey fans have been riding their smartphones to vote the maximum-allowed ten times a day for their favorite single native son player in the league.

Buffalo News sports reporter Mike Harrington headlined the “stunner” news item “Latvian Power” and wrote “what’s clearly happening is that Girgensons is getting humongous numbers from his homeland, where he is already a national icon at age 20.”

As evidence he shared a tweet with a Latvian who admitted as a morning ritual to voting for his countryman in the NHL’s showcase game of mixed-team favorite player lists, as many others like him were likely to be doing.

Girgensons’ coach Ted Nolan, no less beloved among Latvian hockey fans for his coaching of the national team at the Sochi Olympics, told Harrington the player could keep expecting more support not just from his homeland fans:

“For a kid who's 20 years to be doing the things he's doing now and to show his maturity, the people of Latvia certainly are supportive of their athletes," Nolan said. "Especially hockey players. They did it with Irbe, with Ozolinš. Now the next generation, the next kid coming out is Girgensons. I wouldn't be surprised if the votes are coming from Latvia -- but there will be a lot coming from North America very shortly.”

As for the player himself, Girgensons just told Harrington "It's the fans back home. We got some crazy hockey fans back home."


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