Latvia won its first ever medal at the 2023 IIHF World Championship on Sunday — and the country acted accordingly, declaring a surprise national holiday and packing the streets with over 50,000 people to celebrate.
Absolutely insane scenes in the European country after defenseman Kristians Rubins scored his second goal of the game in overtime to lead Team Latvia to a 4-3 upset victory over the United States in the bronze medal game.
KRISTIANS RUBINS IN OT TO WIN BRONZE FOR LATVIA! pic.twitter.com/hdN3QomvvM
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) May 28, 2023
It was the first ever top-three finish for Latvia at the tournament, with the previous best a seventh place showing.
Rubins scored his first goal of the game with 5:39 remaining in the third period to tie the game at three and force overtime, before sniping the winner in front of a raucous crowd in Finland.
When Latvians woke up on Monday morning, they found they didn't have to go to work, with parliament meeting at midnight to declare a holiday after the incredible bronze medal win, per Reuters.
Hockey is the national sport of Latvia, and it showed, with jubilant scenes in the country's capital on Monday:
— Raitis Narme (@RaitisNarme) May 29, 2023
Absolute SCENES in Latvia as the country celebrates it's first-ever medal at the #IIHFWorlds 😲🇱🇻
— Gino Hard (@GinoHard_) May 29, 2023
Let's make that this picture reach world headlines!
Latvian nation welcomes Latvian national hockey team home.
They are our champions! 🇱🇻
Photo: TV3 Latvia pic.twitter.com/KO16RUQknz
— Jānis Dombrava (@janisdombrava) May 29, 2023
Latvia was co-hosting the IIHF World Championship with Finland, and the 4-3 win over the United States was met with widespread excitement. A plane bringing the team home from Finland flew low over the capital of Riga to greet the thousands of fans who had gathered to welcome the team home.
The national holiday was meant to “to strengthen the fact of significant success of Latvian athletes in the social memory of the society,” per the bill's sponsors.
“It will be chaos for many,” Aigars Rostovskis, the president of the Latvian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told public broadcaster LSM.
That certainly seems to be the case on Monday, but well deserved for the team and the country.