Very worrisome news are coming out of Latvia. Kristiāns Pelšs, a very strong forward and the captain of the Latvian junior team at the 2012 WJC, is missing since tuesday. There is a huge concern, that he drowned in the Latvian capital Riga, after a jump into the Daugava river at night.
According to the website kriminal.lv, during monday night or early tuesday morning, a young man was seen on the Stone bridge across the river. He undressed and jumped into the river, however the body has not been recovered, not even by the divers who helped in the search the next day.
The Diena magazine wrote that the person left his personal items on the bridge, and the cell phone reportedly belonged to Pelšs. Approximately in the same time, the player's family has announced that Kristiāns is missing. Kristiāns Pelšs has reportedly arrived to Riga from North America on monday, from then on nobody knows anything about him. According to the website kasjauns.lv, the rescuers are still looking for his body, but without any success so far.
On the 2012 World Juniors in Edmontone and Calgary, Martin Gernát and Kristiāns Pelšs were in opposing teams. Except for one game on the championship, they remained friends, though. Gernát was supposed to join Kristiāns and another Slovak player with a contract in Edmonton: Martina Marinčin in the AHL, in Oklahoma City. (Foto: nimg.sulekha.com)
The 20-year old belonged to the new Latvia generation of players, along with Zemgus Girgensons and Teodors Blugers. In 2010, the Edmonton Oilers picked Pelšs in the 7th round (181. overall). He became the first Latvian to be selected in 3 years. Kristians has represented his country on two U18 and two U20 World Championships. He was also drafted into the CHL by the Edmonton Oil Kings from the WHL. In his second season, he helped Martin Gernát during his begginings. In that season, they won the regular season, the play-offs and got a chance to start at the Memorial Cup.
„Kristiāns was my best friend. We were in contact even during this past season. We met in Oklahoma afterwards, so we knew each other very well. I can say that he, Martin Marinčin and me were best friends, which were in the Oilers organization. Those we're the first words of Martin Gernát, when we contacted him. During the WHL play-offs, Pelšs signed a 3-year, entry-level deal with the Oilers. In the following season he was supposed to be one of the defensive mainstays in Oklahoma, along with both Slovak defensemen.
"I got the news from Canada. I got mail from my former billet family and from my manager asking me whether I heard of it. How did I react? I still can't believe it. I really hope he's somewhere, that they'll find him. If they won't find his body, I won't believe it. It's a tragedy, something horrible." said Martin Gernát about the news from Latvia.
Gernát was trying to help his team repeat as the Ed Chynoweth Cup champions, the cup for the WHL play-off victory. He didn't succeed. Afterwards, he spent a couple of days in Oklahoma, where he was trying to get used to the surroundings, in which he will be playing next year. He also met Pelšs over there, who didn't show any signs of any possible problems. All three of us lived together, it was a great atmosphere. We were talking about how glad we are that we're together. The last time I talked to him was before the AHL conference finals with the Griffins. It's beyond my understanding. I can't even imagine what could've happened.
In the meantime, Pelšs managed to profile himself as a hard worker on the ice. He always left everything on it, and he had no problems with the North American style of play, with what Martin Gernát agrees. "He was a hard worker, always well physically prepared and with great speed. He was a player, who skates a lot, shoots from everywhere and does all the dirty work for the team.
Rookies in this AHL season: Martin Marinčin (second from the left) and Kristiāns Pelšs (hird from the left). Photo: facebook.com/OKCBarons
The past season, Pelšs started in the ECHL, since during that time, because of the lockout, the Oklahoma City Barons, Edmonton's AHL affiliate team, were stacked with players from the Oilers team, including Magnus Pääjärvi, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle or Justin Schultz. He played his first three AHL games in October and then after the conclusion of the NHL lockout went back to Oklahoma and finished his season there. There, he was company on and off the ice to the second slovak hopeful in Edmonton, also an AHL rookie, defenseman Martin Marinčin. Oklahoma's season went on until last wednesday, when they lost to the Grand Rapids Griffins in the 7th game of the western conference final. Kristiāns didn't crack the line-up in a single game of the Calder Cup play-offs. I think he had a bright future ahead of him. He made it, got drafted by the Oilers and signed a contract with them. He had a bit of bad luck on the start of the season, though. After all, we had a lot of forwards here, 4 of them came from the NHL. He had a tough position, but in the next season, he was supposed to play frequently in Oklahoma, that's what the coach told me. It would be great for him," said Martin Marinčin.
Marinčin found out about Pelšs yesterday, from Martin Gernát. "I found out yesterday, after Gery called me. I was shocked when he told me the news, I didn't want to believe it and I still don't want to. It would be horrible news for me.
According to Marinčin, Pelšs didn't look like someone who could have a problem. The Latvian forward has reportedly been looking forward to the summer, for some relax after a long and hard year.
If the tragedy of the 20-year old talented player will be confirmed, it will be another blow to Latvian hockey. In 2004, Sergejs Žoltoks died after a heart failure, in 2011 Karlis Skrastinš, a Latvian icon, died in the Lokomotiv Jarosľavl plane crash. During this season, Kaspars Astašenko, another Latvian player with NHL experience, unexpectedly died as well.