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Latvian ice hockey goaltender Irbe to be inducted into San Jose's Sports Hall of Fame

BC, Riga, 24.09.2010.Print version

On November 16, legendary Latvian ice hockey goaltender Arturs Irbe will be inducted into San Jose's (California) Sports Hall of Fame, writes LETA. Irbe will be the first former San Jose ''Sharks'' (National Hockey League) player to be inducted in the city's Sport Hall of Fame.


Irbe became the starting goalie of the San Jose ''Sharks'' during the 1993/1994 season, helping the team qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs. Irbe led San Jose to the biggest turnaround in NHL history, finishing with a 33-35-16 record and making the playoffs with 82 points. This represented a 58-point increase from the previous season. Irbe won 30 games that season, adding three shutouts and playing a then-NHL single season record 4,412 minutes, and set a still-standing Sharks record as he faced 2,064 shots. He became the first Sharks goalie to be named to the NHL All-Star Game in 1994.


The eighth-seeded Sharks entered the 1994 playoffs against the top-seeded Detroit ''Red Wings'', and backstopped by a confident Irbe, San Jose pulled off one the most memorable first-round upsets in modern NHL history.


Beyond his impressive statistics, there are intangibles that cemented Irbe's place in San Jose sports lore. 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.


In 1993-94, in a ballot by his own teammates, Irbe was chosen as the ''Sharks'' nominee for the NHL's King Clancy Award, given by the League to "the player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on-and-off the ice and has made a noteworthy contribution to the community." Irbe later founded the ''Kids First Fund'' to help abused kids in his native Latvia.


As he led a young ''Sharks'' team to many franchise “firsts,” the man hockey fans knew as “The Wall” is the first professional ice hockey player to be inducted into the San Jose Sports Hall of Fame.


During his career, Irbe played 13 seasons in the NHL for the San Jose ''Sharks'', Dallas ''Stars'', Vancouver ''Canucks'' and Carolina ''Hurricanes''. In 2002, Irbe helped the Carolina ''Hurricanes'' make it to the Stanley Cup finals, where they lost to the Detroit ''Rd Wings'' 1-4.


Irbe has played in 64 game for the Latvian national men's ice hockey team, participating in nine World Championships and two Olympic Games. In 1989 and 1990, Irbe participated in the Ice Hockey World Championships for the Soviet team.


Irbe is best remembered by Latvian ice hockey fans for his heroic performance at the 2000 Ice Hockey World Championships in the Russian city of St. Petersburg, where Latvia defeated a star-studded Russian team 3:2.


As reported, Irbe was also inducted into the International Ice Hockey Federation's Hall (IIHF) of Fame this year.

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