‘Minister of Defence,’ Canucks Artūrs Šilovs keeping Latvia up all night

The Vancouver Canucks third-string goalie is making a name for himself in North America, after being called up to start multiple NHL playoff games and showing off his mettle when being pressured.

But in his home country of Latvia, Artūrs Šilovs is a national hero. And now, he’s keeping the entire country up at night as citizens of the Baltic country turn on their televisions to watch their “Minister of Defence” hit the ice.

“You have to wait until 4 a.m. or 4:30 in the morning usually to watch Šilovs play. It’s a bit of a difficult time for Latvia, so we really hope that you win so that we haven’t wasted all this sleeping time,” Latvian journalist Kristaps Andrejsons told CityNews Friday morning.

Andrejsons says “productivity” in the country has dipped, too, as Latvians take time off work to watch their Minister play.

“Latvian productivity is at an all-time low during May, because people just sleep for about three hours per night before going to their jobs,” he joked.

A hockey-mad country, Andrejsons explains the country needs the Canucks to also win so they can get Šilovs back in their national side. The Latvian national team — without Šilovs — is currently in Czechia trying to defend their IIHF Bronze medal.

“We’ve been loving hockey since the Soviet era. And we were also very interested in this when we got our independence. And then well, Šilovs, he carried us through last year’s World Championships when we got bronze,” he explained.

“This was our first medal ever. … We’ve always been a bit of a middle-ranking team, we never really had massive success. However, last year was something special, and now everyone who was on that team is a glorious national hero for life.

“Šilovs will never have to pay for his own drinks in Riga or wherever he goes,” he said.

“Obviously, this year our [World Championship] team is trying their best, we’re also following Šilovs because you know, he already has a World Cup medal and we want him to win the Stanley Cup.”

Andrejsons says that while the country also loves Šilovs teammate and Latvian national Teddy Blueger, the Latvian national team doesn’t have a good defence, and so “our goalies have to be really good to carry us all the way.”

“We have memes calling him our ‘Minister of Defence’ at this point. We really appreciate good goaltending, a lot, and we really hope that he succeeds with everything.

“We’re really glad that the team he’s playing for is the Canucks because it would be much harder if it was something like the Florida Panthers because we don’t like Ovechkin much,” he explained.

Andrejsons says everyone, “literally everyone” in the Baltic country roughly the size of the Lower Mainland, with almost 2 million people, will be watching Šilovs in Game 6 Saturday night.

“Please do make it to the finals,” he said. “We’re going to be super excited for this.”

He says Latvians already have plans in the works for if, and when, Šilovs has the opportunity to bring the Stanley Cup back home to Europe.

“We will be super excited to have that in Riga, because we want to see it and then everyone’s gonna take the day off. There’s gonna be a massive picture-taking event and massive partying.

“It’s going to be a great achievement to see Lord Stanley’s trophy back here in Riga. That’s something that almost everyone wants to see.”

With rumours that first-string goalie Thatcher Demko might start in the net on Saturday night after being out with injury, Andrejsons says this of Šilovs:

“What I can tell you, 100 per cent, is that he’s not going to break mentally, he’s going to put his heart on the ice,” he said. “Why? Because he’s Latvian, and we can’t do otherwise. He’s going to do his best, even if he might not succeed sometimes.”

Andrejsons says Šilovs love of ice packs in the locker room helps him stay calm and cool.

“That’s a common thing in Latvia that you’re recommended to do — when you’re stressed out and everything.”

The puck drops at 5 p.m. Saturday for Game 6 in Edmonton.

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