Latvian coach Ted Nolan brought former NHLers Sandish Ozolinch, Artus Irbe back into the fold

Latvia, a small Baltic nation with crazy hockey fans, has managed to qualify for each of the past four Olympic games in the men's ice hockey event. The Latvian team has never finished better than 9th at the Olympic tournament, and finished 10th at the 2013 World Championships. Is this the year for the Latvian minnow to roar?

It certainly could be if Latvian and Buffalo Sabres head coach Ted Nolan has it his way. Nolan was hired during Olympic qualifying, when things were looking grim for the national team. The veteran NHL bench boss immediately reached out to Latvian veterans like Artus Irbe and Sandish Ozolinsh, who had been estranged from the national team but promptly signed up. Irbe is currently an assistant coach for the team, while Ozolinsh provides a calming, puck-moving presence on the back-end.

"Right before the qualifying tournament last February, I got a call from Sandis Ozolinsh saying, 'Hey, I want to play,'" Nolan told NHL.com's Joe Yerdon. "It took us two years to get him to come back and sure enough, he came back. If he didn't come back in that tournament, I don't think we go to the Olympics. He meant that much to the team."

Now that Latvia has qualified for the tournament, they may have a puncher's chance to slay a giant or two despite a difficult draw (Latvia shares a group with Switzerland, Sweden and the Czech Republic). 

Team Latvia Preview
Latvia hoping for a miracle in Olympic hockey tournament

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Latvian coach Ted Nolan brought former NHLers Sandish Ozolinch, Artus Irbe back into the fold
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