Friday, May 27, 2011
A true stalwart of the Latvia National Team, Herberts Vasiljevs was born on this date in 1976 in Riga, Latvia.
His professional career began with the Krefeld Penguins of the German DEL in the 1994-95 season as an 18-year-old.
Vasiljevs came to North America the following season and the right winger had a strong season for the Guelph Storm, scoring 34 goals and 67 points in 85 games. Guelph made it to the Memorial Cup and Vasiljevs contributed 19 points in 16 games.
The 1996-97 season saw him visit the hockey outposts of Knoxville of the ECHL and Port Huron of the Colonial Hockey League for 3 games each although he spent the majority of the season with the Carolina Monarchs of the AHL. On the move once again for 1997-98, he finished third in scoring for the New Haven Beast of the AHL with 66 points in 76 games.
Continuing his travels around the minors, Vasiljevs played for the Kentucky Thoroughblades in 1998-99, averaging a point per game with 76 points in 76 games. He also made his NHL debut that season with 5 games with the Florida Panthers, but failed to score a point.
1999-00 was a similar story for the Latvian, as the majority of his season was again spent in the AHL, this time with the Orlando Solar Bears, playing 73 games and scoring 60 points while seeing action in 7 NHL games with the Atlanta Thrashers, which included his first NHL goal.
He was back with the Solar Bears for 58 games, scoring over 20 goals for the fourth consecutive AHL season with 22 in addition to his 21 games spent with the Thrashers during which he scored 4 goals and 5 assists.
The 2001-02 season saw a change in organizations, as he split time between the Vancouver Canucks for 18 games and their top minor league affiliate, the Manitoba Moose for 31 games.
It proved to be the final NHL games of his career, as he spent the entirety of the 2002-03 season with Manitoba, which in turn were the final games of the North American portion of his career, as Vasiljevs signed with Khabarovsk Amur of the Russian Elite League for 2003-04.
Vasiljevs returned to Germany the following season with the Nuermberg Ice Tigers where he regained his scoring touch with 38 points in 39 games, his highest average per game since 1999.
After 11 seasons of bouncing around from country to country, from the minors to the pros, Vasiljevs found a home - right back where he started in 1994 with Krefeld as an 18-year-old.
At the conclusion of this past 2010-11 season, Vasiljevs, now the captain of the Penguins, has now played for Krefeld for the last six seasons, leading the team in scoring in 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2011. He also been a regular fixture in the top ten in league scoring since 2006-07 when he led the DEL in goal scoring with 30 goals and was named the DEL league MVP. He is currently signed with the club through the 2012-13 season.
While Vasiljevs club teams were an unsettled lot for the first decade of his career, his place on the Latvia National Team was not. He made his first appearance for his country in 1998 at the World Championships. He made three more World Championship appearances in 2000, 2004 and 2005. A busy 2006 saw him make his Olympic debut in February, scoring his first international goal, followed by a highlight for all Latvians, as they hosted the World Championships for the first time in May.
Photo courtesy of Francis Larrede © 2010
He continued his international career, which included becoming the captain of the national team, with consecutive World Championship appearances from 2007 to 2011 including leading the team in scoring in 2009. After a slow start with 5 points in his first six international tournaments, Vasiljevs has now scored 24 points in his last six.
Today's featured jersey is a 2004-05 Nuermberg Ice Tigers Herberts Vasiljevs jersey. This jersey is typical of many European league jerseys with it's numerous sponsorship patches. The grey color however, is rather unusual for a hockey jersey, as they are generally either white or a much bolder color, paticularly in Europe where the common use of dye-sublimation allows for the use of especially bright colors.
Bonus Jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 2001-02 Manitoba Moose Herberts Vasiljevs jersey as worn during the North American portion of Vasiljevs career while he was trying to become an NHL regular. With their use of the moose antler theme, Manitoba's jerseys have some of the greatest numbers in the history of hockey jerseys.
In today's video segment, Vasiljevs scores in the 2009 World Championships for Latvia. Goals by Latvia against Russia are particularly sweet for the team and their fans taking into account their past political situation.