A Night of Hockey in Riga

Riga Dinamo goalie

As I approached Arena Riga, the home of Dinamo Riga, the city’s professional hockey team, I wondered if it would feel the same as a game back home.

I have only been to one professional hockey game in my life, but I grew up going to high school hockey games in Minnesota and I’ve been to countless professional basketball, football and baseball games, so I was curious how the overall experience would stack up.

For starters, the price couldn’t be beat. My ticket was 8 Lats (about $16) for a seat in the second row of the upper level, directly behind the goal.

As I entered the arena, I was surrounded by men decked out in hockey jerseys or Dinamo Riga scarves and women with cute fake tattoos with the team logo decorating their faces.  The only thing that may have set it apart from a typical game back home was the number of women donning 4-inch heels and miniskirts to go with those fake tattoos.

The vending options were lacking in diversity, but seemed standard: popcorn, hamburgers, French fries and beer. But wait, could that be right? Beer cost only $3??
 

Apparently the Latvians have not yet learned the art of jacking up prices at professional sporting events.

 
After warm ups finished, the lights went down and I could see two stages being lowered from the ceiling toward the ice. I mistakenly assumed these were for the national anthem when instead we were treated to a rousing multi-song performance by the Latvian version of Adam Lambert. Based on the crowd’s reaction, whoever he was, he must be a big thing in Latvia.

Riga Dinamo Pre-Game

Adam Lambert lookalike

Then it was time for player introductions – at which point the Dinamo Riga players skated out of a tunnel, through a large inflatable cat/bear/animal of some kind, with torches burning on either side. Yes, real live torches with real live fire. Do we do that in the United States or is it just calling for a potential lawsuit?

Dinamo Riga player entrance

Before the first puck was dropped, the enthusiasm of the fans impressed me. The game had a playoff atmosphere, yet it was an early season match-up between the second-worst team in the KHL (unfortunately the home team) and a team that wasn’t much better.  Several men in the lower level banged on drums continuously, leading the rest of the arena in nonstop chants – some of which I could understand and others I couldn’t make out at all.

The most common?

Dee-na-MO!

Dee-na-MO!

(yes, that is dee-na-mo, not die-na-mo as I totally thought it was beforehand)

Most of the first period was played on my end of the ice. While the home team seemed to completely control the puck, the visitors somehow managed to score not once, but twice.

I wouldn’t have known it by listening to the fans. Immediately after the first goal was scored, the drums just got right back into it and the chants started up again. Same response after the second goal. And when the team left the ice when the period ended, everyone in the arena were on their feet, flags and scarves waving and, of course, drums beating.

Dinamo Riga jersey

Dinamo Riga drummers

Dinamo RIga mascot
 

Breaks in the action felt pretty similar to any professional sporting event back home.

 
Everyone rushed out to use the restroom or grab food (odd note: the women’s restroom seemed to be converted from a man’s as it included a whole row of urinals…).

Back in the arena, the jumbotron did the kiss cam and a feature that probably wouldn’t fly in the U.S. – placing the heads of random men in the crowd on top of an image of some very large cleavage.

There was a contest – the lucky person sitting in row 5, seat 113 won a bunch of miles to use on bus transportation.

And of course, there was a marriage proposal.

And of course, she said yes.

Jumbotron

Back to the game, the situation didn’t improve much for the home team, but the crowd’s spirit never diminished. When they finally scored to pull within 4-1, you would’ve thought they had tied it up.

And when they made it 4-2 with less than a minute to go, you might’ve thought they won.

Even as the clock wound down and the visiting team from a town in Russia I’ve never heard of (which is saying a lot!) scored to make the final 5-2, the fans stuck around and cheered.

Dinamo RIga crowd
 

People weren’t rushing out to beat the traffic.

 
They weren’t giving up on their team with a losing record who had no realistic chance of winning the game.

And as they final left the arena, they were still chanting and yelling and singing as if they had won.

Which led me to conclude that either they are some of the most passionate, enthusiastic sports fans I have ever encountered – or they were just really, really drunk.
 

I’m kind of leaning toward the latter.

 

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17 thoughts on “A Night of Hockey in Riga”

  1. Okay, so I’m super jealous of your hockey experience, kicked ass on ours in Slovenia. A kiss cam? A marriage proposal? BEER???

    At least it appears that the business for large inflatable animal heads is alive and well on this side of the world! 🙂

    1. LOL! Yes, the inflatable animal head was great, although I never did figure out exactly what the mascot was supposed to be. 🙂 I’m kind of shocked they didn’t have beer at the game you went to in Slovenia. I thought beer was required for professional sporting events throughout the world!

  2. I am so happy to have come across your blog through Nomadic Matt’s site. Yes, we Latvians LOVE our hockey! You should try and sneak into a World Championship match when the national team is playing. Un-for-get-table.

    Having said that, we’re not all that great. So the team I usually support is from the country where I studied — Finland. Defending world champions : ) Enjoy my home country!

    1. Welcome! Yes, it was sooo clear how much people loved the game and the team. It was really great to see.

      Loved my time in Latvia – only had 6 days in Riga, which included a day trip to Sigulda. Definitely need to go back in the summer sometime and see some more of it!

  3. My boyfriend plays hockey and we’ll be stopping in Riga next year as part of our rtw, so this will definitely need to be added to our list. Seems there’ll be plenty of quirky things happening during the event to keep me interested, too.

    1. Definitely check it out! Even if you’re not a big sports fan, I feel like going to sports events abroad, especially ones involving national pride, can really give you some good insight into the people and culture.

  4. Oddly enough, $16 is pretty much the same amount that seat would cost at a Phoenix Coyotes game. $3, on the other hand, is about 1/4 the price of the beer, and it sounds like the Latvians are way more supportive of their team.

    1. Since I don’t normally go to hockey games back home, my basis for comparison was a baseball game – and the cheapest a Cubs ticket goes for is about $35! Considering how bad Dinamo Riga is, the fan support was really impressive. Although like I said, it may have been all the cheap beer. 🙂

  5. I love this! My dad and I used to have season tickets to the Thrashers (who sadly are not in Atlanta anymore) and I really enjoyed going to the games. In Atlanta, you actually would see a few girls wearing min skirts and heels. Insane. And the giant birds at the ceiling would breath fire whenever the Thrashers would score, but there was no possibility of burning a player or spectator with it. Glad you went, sounds like you had a good time!

    1. Yeah, it was really interesting to see the similarities and differences to US pro sports. We always make fun of girls who show up in high heels & miniskirts to baseball games but apparently it’s the norm for games in Latvia. 🙂

    1. Um, I really hope you’re kidding or you completely misunderstood the point of my post. I’m a huge sports fan and I had a blast at the game – it was fun to see how enthusiastic and supportive the fans were because it’s not always like that in the US, especially when the home team isn’t that good.

  6. Just awesome! Glad I may have played a minuscule hand in getting you to the game, lol! I went to a game once in Fussen, Germany and the drums were an integral part of the cheering as well.

  7. Oh my god! You checked out my team! And I am so happy you got the Dinamo sounding right (yes, I thought of the same mistake on my first ever game in 2008). We are the most passionate fans in the KHL and always chant win or lose.

    The only reason as a club we don’t jack up the prices are the following –

    1) as you know, Latvia, Russia, Estonia etc etc, the people don’t earn high wages. So the admission prices are kept low.

    2) television deals – thanks to Russian television and other broadcasters, income to cover player wages, traveling etc is covered by this, which also means keeping admission prices down. However a cut price deal with Latvian television ensures most of the COUNTRY watches Dinamo on the television. 😀

    3) sponsorship’s deals – the KHL league is getting very popular and is the second biggest league after the NHL. 🙂

    Thought i mention that, but I am so glad you got to watch Dinamo and also Latvia’s number one sport whilst traveling there. 🙂

    1. Very interesting! And yes, it was quite fun – I am a huge sports fan so I always like to see sporting events in other countries!

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