Family ties link Kings, Latvia in Sochi - LA Kings Insider

Though the Kings representing their countries at the Winter Olympics won’t play until February 13, the Men’s Tournament will open tomorrow morning with four teams, one of which has Los Angeles Kings ties.

At 9:00 a.m. PT, Sweden will face the Czech Republic and Switzerland will face Latvia.

The Latvian team, coached by Buffalo Sabres coach Ted Nolan, father of Kings forward Jordan Nolan, is not by any means an international power but will be looking to rely on its work ethic. Nolan regains love for coaching with Latvia

“I’m a strong believer in the ordinary guy can do extraordinary things at the right moment,” Nolan said. “We worked on it for the last two and a half years in Latvia. When I first got there, they kept telling me, ‘We couldn’t beat Russia, we couldn’t beat Russia, we couldn’t beat Russia.’

“Although we didn’t play their No. 1 team, we beat their ‘B’ team just before I got this job here [in Buffalo]. That’s where I was coming back from, we beat them 4-1 and they beat us in a shootout. So we’re right there with them. I’m not saying we’re as good as Russia, but right now I’m a strong believer in belief and if you work hard and you do the right things at the right time. Just look at 1980.”

Buffalo correspondent Joe Yerdon, who wrote the feature on Nolan, included an interesting bit about Nolan fostering the team’s identity by encouraging the players to speak Latvian in the dressing room. Nolan also enlisted the services of Arturs Irbe as an assistant coach and invited Sandis Ozolinsh, the former Colorado Avalanche blue line threat and productive 41-year-old captain of KHL-Riga, to return to the team. It’s a good read.

Unlike Slovenia, coached by Matjaz Kopitar, Anze’s father, the Latvians have an Olympic history. The 2014 tournament will mark the fourth consecutive Olympics the Latvians have qualified for; the country finished in last place in the Turin and Vancouver Games. Latvia hasn’t won an Olympic game since a 9-2 win over Ukraine in the ninth place game in Salt Lake City, though the team did tie the United States in Italy in 2006.

Upsets, even if not on the same scale as the United States in 1980, do occur. In 2002, Belarus defeated Sweden in the quarterfinals before losing to Russia in the bronze medal game and claimed fourth place in the tournament. The Belarusians did not qualify in 2014.

Alex Livesey / Getty Images Sport

Before the Kings departed for the Olympic break, I spoke with Jordan Nolan about the Latvian team. More about Latvia’s qualification, and Jordan Nolan’s pride in his father’s successful qualification, can be found here.

On whether he’ll wake up early to watch the Latvia games:
Definitely. I’ll definitely check out the schedule once we’re done here…and I hope fans are excited to see our dad coach out there, and it’s going to be fun to watch.

On his father’s preparation for the tournament:
He’s been over to Russia a few times and he knows what it’s all about over there. But he’s definitely excited to just experience everything there and take in the Olympics. It’s probably a little different being in it than watching it. My mom was going to head over, but she decided to come visit my brother and I over the break. So we’re all excited to watch for him. I think he’s a little nervous, but I think it’s going to be a good time for him.

On if he is familiar with any of the Latvian players:
I don’t know too much about the Latvian team. I know that [Zemgus] Girgensons is a pretty good player in Buffalo. He’s playing well for my dad. He’s definitely using him a lot at the Olympics there. They don’t have some of the top skill that other teams do, but they do work hard and they do play a more North American style. That should help them out there.

Having edged out Kazakhstan, France and Great Britain to earn an Olympic berth, the Latvians will compete against Sweden, Switzerland and the Czech Republic in Group C.

And because they are fascinating, here are Sandis Ozolinsh’s career statistics:

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Jake Muzzin

#6 | 6′ 3″ | 216 lb | Age: 27

Born: Feb 21, 1989
Birthplace: Woodstock, ON, CAN
Position: D
Handedness: Left


Muzzin was drafted in 2007 by the Pittsburgh Penguins, before signing to the Kings in 2010. He has since become the first Woodstock, Ontario professional athlete to win a major sports trophy.

Anze Kopitar

#11 | 6′ 3″ | 224 lb | Age: 29

Born: August 24, 1987
Birthplace: Jesenice, SVN
Position: C
Handedness: Left


As the 11th overall pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, Kopitar became the first Slovenian to play in the NHL. Kopitar has spent his entire NHL career with the Kings, and following the 2015–16 season, was named the Kings’ captain. Noted for both his offensive and defensive play, Kopitar was awarded the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the best defensive forward in the NHL in 2016.

Drew Doughty

#8 | 6′ 1″ | 195 lb | Age: 26

Born: December 8, 1989
Birthplace: London, ON, CAN
Position: D
Handedness: Right


Bio: Doughty is a Canadian defenceman who was selected second overall by the Kings in the 2008 Draft. Doughty made his NHL debut in 2008 as an 18-year-old and was named to the All-Rookie Team. He is a two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Kings, a two-time Olympic gold medallist with the Canadian national team, and a Norris Trophy finalist.

Tyler Toffoli

#73 | 6′ 1″ | 200 lb | Age: 24

Born: April 24, 1992
Birthplace: Scarborough, ON, CAN
Position: C
Handedness: Right


Toffoli is a Canadian professional ice hockey forward, drafted by the Kings in the second round of the 2010 Draft. Toffoli scored his first career NHL goal in his second game in a 4–0 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes in 2013. He was also named the 2012–13 AHL All-Rookie Team.

Jeff Carter

#77 | 6′ 4″ | 215 lb | Age: 31

Born: January 1, 1985
Birthplace: London, ON, CAN
Position: C
Handedness: Right


Carter began his hockey career playing in the Ontario Hockey League in Canada before joining the AHL and playing for the Philadelphia Flyers. He was then traded to the Colombus Blue jackets before joining the LA Kings in 2012, where he has since won two Stanley Cups with the Kings.

Jonathan Quick

#32 | 6′ 1″ | 218 lb | Age: 30

Born: January 21, 1986
Birthplace: Milford, CT, USA
Position: G
Handedness: Left


Bio: Quick is the current goaltender for the LA Kings and was selected by Los Angeles at the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. Previously, Quick was a silver medalist with USA at the 2010 Winter Olympics. He’s won two Stanley Cup championships with the Kings, along with being the most recent goaltender to be awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs.