OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – On Tuesday, reports from Latvia regarding the disappearance of 20-year old hockey player Kristiāns Pelŝs became known. The former Captain of the Latvian national team in the 2012 World Juniors had just completed his first year with the AHL Oklahoma City Barons. On Friday, it was confirmed that a body was recovered from the DaugavaRiver in Latvia, and the identification was that of Pelŝs.
Per the various news reports from Latvia; it appears Pelŝs either jumped or dove from the StoneBridge over the DaugavaRiver, into the water below.
2012 was a busy year for Pelŝs, as he and his Oil Kings teammates won the WHL Ed Chynoweth Cup. That summer he captained the Latvian team in the World Juniors in Calgary. Later in the same year, Pelŝs signed a 3-year entry level contract with Edmonton.
This past season 2012-2013, he staked in 20 games with the Barons, and also split time with the ECHL affiliate the Stockton Thunder. Pelŝs began the season in Oklahoma City, followed by an assignment to Stockton. While in the ECHL, he served a 21-game suspension for a slashing penalty.
Upon his eligibility to return to action, Barons Coach Todd Nelson had Pelŝs in the starting line-up; paired with Captain Josh Green and enforcer Dane Byers. During that January 13, 2013, game, the Barons were scoreless. With a power-play late in the third period, Pelŝs was Nelson’s choice for the extra attacker. “He earned it,” said Nelson. “He has played two strong games for use and he has been off awhile. I was happy with his play.”
Despite the loss to the Stars, Nelson had positive things to say regarding Pelŝs. “I saw some really positive things tonight: Kristiāns Pelŝs made a great move on a one-on-one and beat the guy,” said Nelson.”
A week later, Pelŝs was moved to a line with fellow Europeans Anton Lander, and Toni Rajala. The centerman for this line would vary over the next few weeks; however Rajala and Pelŝs remained on the same line. Pelŝs’ one and only AHL goal was scored on the road in Austin, on February 15, 2013.
The Barons first goal of the game was scored in the second period by rookie winger Pelŝs. His Slovakian roommate defenseman Martin Marincin set up the play in the neutral zone. Finish winger Rajala got the puck to Pelŝs and he evened the score at one apiece. Pelŝs would also earn an assist on Green’s goal two minutes later, Rajala also assisted on the score.
Between being reassigned from the Barons to the ECHL Thunder and back again gobbled up playing time, which was also impacted by serving a 21-game suspension for on on-ice infraction. Of the possible 74 games, Pelŝs skated in a combined 33 for the two teams. A late season injury sidelined him for most of the month of March, and he did not make the post-season line-up. Pelŝs had two years remaining on his NHL entry-level contract.
The Barons issued a press release on June 14, 2013. The following is an excerpt from that press release.
“This is the news we feared. Kristiāns as an outstanding man and we feel terrible he has left us at such a young age,” said Oilers General Manager Craig MacTavish. “I can’t imagine how painful this situation is for the Pelŝs family. On behalf of everyone working at the Oilers, Oil Kings and our affiliate teams, as well as all of our fans, I offer our most sincere and deepest condolences to his family and friends. Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers are with them as they work through this incredibly difficult time.”
contact the author at: email@example.com