Latvians make it clear Zemgus Girgensons is their NHL all-star

Latvian ice-hockey fans have exploited the voting process for the NHL all-star selection and as a result, have elevated its lone representative in the league to top spot.
Buffalo Sabres' Zemgus Girgensons, left, has captured the hearts of the Latvian people, so much so, they've voted him to the top of the NHL all-star ballot. Harry Scull Jr/AP Photo/The Buffalo News.
Buffalo Sabres' Zemgus Girgensons, left, has captured the hearts of the Latvian people, so much so, they've voted him to the top of the NHL all-star ballot. Harry Scull Jr/AP Photo/The Buffalo News.

Anytime a sports league leaves its all-star selection process to fan voting, it needs to brace for the possibility of the absurd.

Like this season in hockey.

In the same way that high schools have been know to ­occasionally vote a male as homecoming queen, the country of Latvia has elevated its lone representative in the NHL to top vote-getter in all-star ­balloting.

Yes, Zemgus Girgensons: come on down and put on an all-star sweater.

The 20-year-old, second-year forward of the Buffalo Sabres is having a decent year – 11 goals, nine assists in 37 games.

But he is not often compared to the likes of Chicago Blackhawks star Patrick Kane, who was second in voting and trailed Girgensons by more than 400,000 votes in last week’s tally.

One wonders how two million Latvians have time to do anything except click buttons online for their favourite son.

Voting is limited to 10 hits from one device each day, yet the Sabres’ centre had amassed nearly 1.3 million votes – about 80 per cent coming from Latvia.

Girgensons said it was “embarrassing” and “funny”, and knew that Latvians were supportive of him and his career.

“But I didn’t think it was going to go that far,” he said.

“That’s, like, crazy far.”

Voting ends tomorrow, leaving little time for partisans in neighbouring Lithuania to mount a campaign for their only man in the NHL, Dainius Zubrus of the New Jersey Devils.

Maybe next year.

Email: sports@thenational.ae

Published: December 30, 2014 04:00 AM

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