Bob Hartley put the Latvians on the right track

Bob Hartley put the Latvians on the right track

The Latvians surprised everyone with their first-ever victory in the group stage of the World Junior Championship on Sunday. The line-up has undergone changes in recent years and it is Bob Hartley who would take care of it.

Bob Hartley served as Latvia’s head coach from 2016-17 to 2020-21. That is when everything would have changed according to the current head coach of Latvia, Artis Arbol.

“It has always been a problem for the small nation that we are. We tend to see ourselves as small and take for granted that we cannot accomplish much. It was Bob who helped us change that old mindset.” – Artis Arbol via Nicolás Landry of RDS

In 2017, Bob Hartley revived his troops in a surprising way: making them believe they could win, taking away the idea that all was lost beforehand. He also judged Artis Tree, who was Hartley’s understudy, based on the facts.

“It was the year of the Junior World Cup in Toronto. This is where I went to meet with the leaders of the federation, they gave me a place in the team entourage. I had realized that the pre-match ceremonies were not even over, that the match was already doubled for the Latvians. It was a damage control issue. If we gave less than ten, we were a little happy. I sold them on the idea that regardless of the size of the adversary, you had to go there believing you had a chance. I told them about the number of players in Canada, the United States, Russia and told them that if we start looking at those numbers, we might as well play ping-pong or bowling. – Artis Arbol via Nicolás Landry of RDS

Perhaps Arbol’s words had a good effect, but according to him, the mentality changed among Latvians after Bob’s words.

“He told us that we needed “Fuck your attitude”Tree remembers. When the puck is in the corner, it’s man against man. When a match starts it is 0-0 and there are five players on each side. In a game, everything is possible. It changed our way of seeing things. He changed mine anyway. – Artis Arbol via Nicolás Landry of RDS

That is exactly what the Latvians have done this year. Yes, the tournament was tough against big teams like Canada or Finland, but they kept in mind that a game is never over until it’s over. Then came the victory against the Czech Republic.

It was during this specific match that we could notice the aggressiveness in the Latvian game. The players never took their foot off the accelerator and won by a resounding score of 5-2.

On Wednesday, the aggressiveness did not go away against Sweden. It was now a one-off match against a team that had beaten them 6-0 earlier in the competition. The Latvian players used their “fuck your attitudeto stay in the game, but eventually retired.

The good news is that instead of losing 6-0, they went 2-1 at the end of the match. There is something to be proud of in such a small country compared to the others. Bob Hartley has certainly made his mark and Latvia are no longer a team to be taken lightly. In hockey, heart often trumps talent.

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