Latvian hockey player Arturs Irbe, known as the “The Wall” during his years as a successful goaltender, will be inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame, the International Ice Hockey Federation has announced in Zurich, Switzerland.
The induction ceremony will take place on May 21 in Cologne, Germany, during the 74th IIHF World Championship. Irbe, who now serves as the goaltending coach for the Washington Capitals of the National Hockey League, will become the second Latvian inductee. Helmuts Balderis was inducted in 1998.
IIHF President René Fasel was able to bring the news directly to Irbe, according to a federation press release.
“A very unusual thing happened when I was visiting Vancouver this week and Arturs Irbe happened to be in town with the Washington Capitals, where he is the goaltending coach,” Fasel said. “This gave me a unique opportunity to tell someone directly about him being selected. I am very happy for Arturs. He was the first true Team Latvia superstar.”
Irbe, 44, began playing professional hockey for Dinamo Rīga in the Soviet national league and was named Rookie of the Year during the 1987-1988 season.
In 1991, Irbe began playing in the NHL, first for the San Jose Sharks, followed by the Dallas Stars, the Vancouver Canucks and the Carolina Hurricanes. He also represented Latvia during the 2002 and 2006 Winter Olympics, serving in the latter event as his country’s flag bearer during the opening ceremonies. Irbe also played for Latvia in eight IIHF World Championships.
Also to be inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame are Riikka Nieminen of Finland (becoming the fourth woman to earn the honor), Dieter Hegen of Germany, Vladimir Krutov of Russia and Rickard Fagerlund of Sweden. Lou Vairo of the United States will receive the Paul Loicq Award for outstanding contributions to international hockey.
The IIHF Hall of Fame was introduced in 1997. It now includes 160 hockey players from 22 countries.
Balderis, the first Latvian inductee, was one of the best players to come out of Soviet Latvia. His career included playing for the Soviet Union’s Olympic hockey team, for Dinamo Rīga and for the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL.
Arturs Irbe, now a goaltending coach for the Washington Capitals, will be inducted in the IIHF Hall of Fame. (Photo courtesy of the International Ice Hockey Federation)
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