May 12, 2006

Latvia escapes sanctions after fans disrupt game

RIGA (Reuters) - Latvia's ice hockey federation has escaped
sanctions after home fans disrupted Canada's 11-0 defeat of
Latvia at the world ice hockey championship, littering the ice
with debris and forcing players off the ice.

A joint statement from the organizing committee and the
International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) on Friday condemned
the fans for their behavior on Thursday in Riga.

They pleaded for good sportsmanship and calm ahead of
Latvia's game against the United States on Saturday.

"The Latvian ice hockey fans have a reputation for being
the most supportive and vocal in the hockey world and we all
wish that the good reputation is maintained," said the

Infuriated at the officiating, Latvian fans forced a halt
to play in the first and third periods of Thursday's game,
littering the ice with cell phones, shoes and coins.

At the end of the game referee Rick Looker had to be
escorted off the ice. Latvian supporters later gathered outside
the American's hotel, honking horns and shouting obscenities
before police were called to break up the disturbance.

Looker drew the ire of Latvian fans by calling 16 penalties
against the home team, including eight in the opening 18
minutes when Canada scored four powerplay goals to take a 4-0

(Writing by Steve Keating in Riga)