Written By Dan Greene
This past pre-season Kaspars Daugavins, an Ottawa Senators draft choice, made a small name for himself with a creative and acrobatic spin-o-rama shootout goal against the Hamilton Bulldogs, which has become a viral sensation (View Video). But now, the 23-year old winger from Latvia has made a bigger name for himself as the legend of Kaspars Daugavins (aka Daugie) has grown in mythical proportions.
After Daugavins’ highlight reel goal in the AHL preseason, he went on to quietly have a tremendous season for the Binghamton Senators, and played a key role in the Senators’ miracle run to capturing the Calder Cup. With the help of Daugavins, the Senators snapped their streak of five consecutive years of missing the playoffs, and became the first team since the 1974-1975 New Haven Nighthawks to finish fifth in their division in the regular season and make the Calder Cup Finals.
“The run to the Calder Cup was hard, but it paid off and was such a great feeling,” said Daugavins. “I finally felt like a champion and was happy for all the work we put in during the season.”
“Bringing [the cup] to Bingo was amazing. The fans have been waiting for it for almost 40 years, and we all felt like heroes,” he said with a smile.
After a strong regular season where Daugavins notched 19 goals, 35 assists, and 54 points (tied for fourth on team), he stepped his game up a notch in the playoffs, and did so in a big way, as he personally sparked the Senators to their Cup run.
“I think I played pretty well [in the playoffs] and helped the team in some clutch moments,” said Kaspars. “But, all the guys were doing it. It was my first playoffs in the AHL, so I’m just happy about what I did.
Down three games to one in the First Round series with the Manchester Monarchs, Game 5 went to overtime. On the brink of elimination all of the pressure was on the Senators. But, 6:38 into overtime Daugavins sniped a power-play goal to keep the Sens’ season alive.
“Winning that game was huge because we were in a bad situation,” said the forward from Latvia. “We couldn’t afford to lose the game, and that OT winner gave lots of confidence to everyone on the team.”
The win not only prolonged the season for the Senators, but also began a 15-4 record that propelled them to the championship after topping the Portland Pirates (4-2), Charlotte Checkers (4-0), and the Houston Aeros (4-2).
Daugavins also provided some clutch scoring in the later rounds including two points in Game 6 against Portland, three points in the opening win at Charlotte, and a shorthanded tally in the decisive game against the Checkers. He also picked up three assists in the series against the Aeros. In total, Daugavins accumulated 20 points (10 goals, 10 assists), which was good for fourth most of any skater in the Calder Cup playoffs.
In the playoffs Daugavins proved himself to be a pretty special player – on special teams that is. Of his 10 goals, half of them came while on special teams as he scored three times on the power-play and twice on the penalty kill. Daugavins ability to play on both sides of the puck, while being a major scoring threat, makes him a very valuable asset to a team.
“Special teams is a big part of hockey now. We had great coaching, and they trusted me to kill lots of penalties and I stepped up,” said Kaspars. “The power-play was huge too. We scored lots of big goals on the PP.”
“I got a chance to play both [power-play and penalty kill] and that’s an honor in the playoffs,” he added. “All I had to do was perform.”
Daugavins is also a tremendous countryman having played on Latvian national teams since 2004, including a stint on Team Latvia during the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver. Also, in 2006 at the age of 17, Daugavins became the youngest player to ever play for Latvia in the World Championships.
“I grew up watching Team Latvia play in the World Championships, so it was my dream to play for them,” said Daugavins. “I finally got a chance to play for my team in my hometown in the World Championships for the first time when I was 17.”
“It is an honor every time I get a chance [to play for Latvia],” he continued. “Playing in the Olympics was something special for me and Latvia. It was one of the happiest days in my life.”
While Latvia might not be the biggest hockey hub on the planet, Daugavins has made his country proud and hopes to join fellow countrymen Karlis Skrastins, Raitis Ivanans, Oskars Bartulis, and Arturs Kulda fulltime in the NHL very soon.
In the meantime, Daugavins has brought happiness to his most current hometown of Binghamton. With his tremendous skill and clutch performance Daugavins has brought the city of Binghamton its first AHL championship and its first championship appearance since 1981-1982 when the Hartford Whalers’ affiliate was based in the city.
Daugie has also become a fan favorite in the city with his fun personality, and especially his tremendous playoff mustache that has drawn comparisons to the likes of George Parros (View Pictures). Kaspars had to shave his mustache for a team picture, but he says that he can always grow it back.
“I think we have the best fans in the league and they supported us all the way,” said Kaspars. “They were our sixth player on the ice. It’s so much easier to play with big and loud crowds in the stands.”
This young Latvian is an interesting player who has proven to be effective in many aspects of the game. Daugavins says he doesn’t have a specific style to his game.
“I don’t have one style. I just try to help the team win and try to do what the coaches ask me to do,” he said. “I like to play hard, but at the same time using my head to get a better result.”
“Once in a while I can make some crazy moves,” Daugie said with a chuckle. “But, a big part of my game is killing penalties and blocking shots, so it’s a mix of everything.”
In the upcoming seasons, look out for the legend of Daugie to grow and to possibly become a sparkplug for a major league club in an arena near you.