San Jose to induct hockey player Irbe into local Hall of Fame

September 24, 2010

Latvian Arturs Irbe, who spent several seasons as a goaltender for the San Jose Sharks in California, will become the first professional ice hockey player inducted into the San Jose Sports Hall of Fame, the San Jose Sports Authority has announced.

Irbe, known as “The Wall” for his impressive abilities to stop the puck, joined the Sharks in 1991 after spending his first year in the United States playing for the former Minnesota North Stars. Previously he had played for Dinamo Rīga.

Irbe and four other athletes with San Jose connections will be inducted into the local Hall of Fame in Nov. 16 ceremony, the sports authority announced in Sept. 22 press release. The others are Olympic decathlon champion Bruce Jenner, women’s soccer pioneer Keri Sanchez, and brothers and wrestlers Dave and Mark Schultz.

While with the Sharks, Irbe during the 1993-1994 season took over the top goaltending spot and led the team to the biggest turnaround in National Hockey League history and a spot in the playoffs. Irbe set a single-season NHL record of 4,412 minutes on the ice. Irbe in 1994 also became the first Sharks goalie to be named to the NHL All-Star Game, according to the sports authority press release.

“Beyond his impressive statistics, there are intangibles that cemented Irbe’s place in San Jose sports lore,” according to the press release. “He was a consensus choice as the most popular player among fans during the first decade of the Sharks franchise. He was the first player to have his name chanted inside the new San Jose Arena, and he returned the fans’ sentiment with his tireless community work and selflessness.”

Irbe played two more seasons for the Sharks and then joined the Dallas Stars, followed by the Vancouver Canucks and Carolina Hurricanes. When a labor dispute shut down the NHL season for 2004-2005, Irbe returned to play in Europe. Irbe also played with the Latvian national team in the Winter Olympics and in the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championships. Last year he joined the Washington Capitals as goaltending coach.

Earlier this year, Irbe was inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame.

The San Jose Sports Authority is a non-profit organization whose mission is to increase the City of San Jose’s economic development, visibility and civic pride through sports.

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