Have you ever wondered what it would look like if Lucy pulled the football away from a room of a few hundred Charlie Browns? That's basically what happened in Latvia earlier this week. Latvian fans, gathered in a tent of some kind, were all watching their national team's game at the World Hockey Championship against archrival Belarus on Monday.
With Latvia trailing 2-1 late in the third period, they had some sustained pressure in the offensive zone. A shot from Kaspars Daugavins appeared to tie the game with 35 seconds remaining. With all of these fans gathered in one place, they went bananas when the puck went in the net. The celebration went on for a few seconds, a great moment for the country against their hated fellow former Soviet state.
The celebration was short-lived. Check the volume on your speakers, but this gets really good around the 1:20 mark:
The referee waved off the goal due to a player in the crease (which was borderline at best). The shock rippled through that tent as word spread that their eyes weren't deceiving them. The referee is taking away this goal, that would likely have at least forced overtime, keeping Latvia's hopes for a quarterfinal berth alive, but no.
Shock gave way to anger inside the tent. There could be some NSFW Latvian curse words in there, but I couldn't tell you, so ...
Here's a look at the play in question, which was the source of great controversy in the days following:
What made this particular play worse is that the referee refused to go to video review, which he totally should have. After the game, Latvia head coach Ted Nolan wondered if the ref wanted to get out of the arena to go to the bar since he was in such a hurry to end the game. That call also reeked of home-cooking as Belarus was hosting the tournament and a win almost guaranteed them a spot in the medal round.
The man in stripes played the role of Lucy, the Latvian fans all were Charlie Brown.
The World Championship doesn't mean a whole heck of a lot to North Americans. It means a lot to those across the pond, especially in the smaller hockey nations. The World Championship is their big stage for their country to sometimes pull off unexpected upsets. Belarus and Latvia both fall into that category and since both are basically on the same level, those games are usually those teams' best chance to win.
The games are heated with national pride on the line. There's no greater example of the passion in international hockey than to see these poor fans have the rug pulled right out from under them.
Belarus added an empty-net goal to win 3-1. International hockey is crazy sometimes.