But living in Riga during the past few months, I have developed a huge appreciation for Latvian hockey and its fans. Even prices at the snack bar are reasonable. The emphasis is more on skating and passing, less on checking and fighting.
Latvian players seem to look to pass first, shoot second. Sometimes, they even give up a good shot on goal in an attempt to get a teammate an even better shot.
No dancing and taunting the other team. It got loud when the home team scored a goal, but the decibel level was nothing compared to when the first fight broke out.
And even then, it was just a couple of slaps and that was the end of it. The two players dutifully skated off to the penalty box with apologetic looks on their faces.
Arguing with referees in Latvia is as rare as fighting. Coaches scream and throw temper tantrums. In some ways, Latvian hockey seems to reflect its society at large. Two weeks before the game, I waited in line 90 minutes to get tickets for me and my parents, who recently spent a month in Riga.
From the minute we arrived at the packed arena for the game, the noise was incessant. The only time it quieted down was for a few seconds when Germany scored its lone goal of the game. Maybe more.
Latvia white vs. Germany By the time the game had ended, I felt as if I had been at a rock concert, my ears ached so badly from the noise. I thought it would be more sedate once we got outside the arena, but the celebration continued as excited fans sang, cheered and blew their horns as we walked home.
For that one night, though, I desperately wanted my country to lose. The World Hockey Championships garner barely a footnote on American sports pages. There, sports fans are much more focused on the NHL playoffs.