Juris Stals has been a committed member of the Latvia National Team since his first days in the Ontario Hockey League back in 2001-02. Stals played a major role in Latvia qualifying for the upcoming 2014 Winter Olympic Games and remains on the national team roster, a team coached by an OHL alumnus.
Juris played two years in the OHL, 2001-02 and 2002-03. He was selected by the Sarnia Sting 23rd overall at the 2001 CHL Import Draft. The same spring, he was taken in the ninth round of the 2001 NHL Entry Draft by the New York Rangers, 269th overall.
Stals spent 2001-02 with the Sting, contributing 45 points over 60 regular season games. His point total placed him fifth on a team led by Kris Newbury’s 104 points. In 2002-03, Juris played just 25 games for the Owen Sound Attack, totalling 23 points. On that low scoring Attack team, Stals finished eighth with Brad Richardson leading the way with just 67 points.
At the 2002 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships, Latvia competed in the Division II tournament, held in Zagreb, Croatia. Stals scored seven goals and assisted on four for eleven points over four games as Latvia placed third out of eight teams. Juris placed third in scoring and Latvia was promoted to Division I for 2003.
After his Ontario Hockey League days, Stals played a few years of North American pro hockey in the AHL, ECHL and IHL. He last played on this side of the Atlantic with the Quad City Mallards of the IHL. In Europe, Juris has played in Finland, Russia, Czech Republic, Belarus, Latvia, Ukraine and Slovakia.
In 2012-13, Stals started with Kompanion Kiev in the Ukraine, playing 23 games. He finished his season with HK SKP Poprad in the Slovak Extraliga. Juris also played three Olympic qualifier games for Latvia. Latvia qualified for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. The Latvia national team is coached by OHL grad Ted Nolan. Nolan played for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in 1976-77 and 1977-78. He returned to coach the Greyhounds from 1988-89 to 1993-94, winning two Robertson Cup championships.
Stals also played for Latvia at the 2013 IIHF World Hockey Championships. The tournament was held jointly between Stockholm, Sweden and Helsinki, Finland. Latvia finished three points behind Slovakia for the final playoff spot and placed eleventh overall out of 16 teams.
Juris has signed on for another season with HK SKP Poprad in Slovakia. Since joining the Slovak Extraliga in 1993-94, Poprad has yet to win a championship but has been to the finals twice, most recently in 2010-11. The team plays home games at Zimny Stadion Mesta Poprad in Poprad, Slovakia, a 4,500 seat venue built in 1973.