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Welcome to Latvia — birthplace of the zither. Chief export: wood. Currency: the lat. Oh, also, their national hockey team tied the U.S. on Wednesday at the Winter Olympics, 3-3.

To repeat, we almost lost to Latvia. Population 2.3 million, which is slightly less than Chicago. Their entire navy consists of 797 people. But they played the U.S. to a standstill in the opening round of Olympic Group B, despite having only two current NHL players on their roster and employing a 39-year-old goalie — former NHL player Arturs Irbe (who, you may recall, almost had his career ended in 1994 when he was bitten by his own dog). We can't imagine what actually happened in this game; when we picture it, all we see is Latka Gravas sitting alone in the stands wearing his white mechanics jump suit and waving a small Latvian flag.


So what's next for the U.S. team? Losing to the Cayman Islands? A 4-1 drubbing by Yemen? A scoreless draw with Kazakhstan? Oops, that last one is our next opponent, actually. Um, go USA!

U.S. Hockey Ties Latvia in Tournament Opener [MSNBC]
U.S. Hockey Team Fit to bet Tied With Latvia [San Diego Tribune]