WASHINGTON, D.C. – Washington Capitals goaltending coach Arturs Irbe – perhaps the most famous Latvian-born ice hockey player of all time – has been selected as a member of the class of 2010 for the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Hall of Fame, the Federation announced today. The Class of 2010 will be honored as part of the festivities at the 74th IIHF World Championship, to be held in Cologne, Germany, from May 7-23, 2010. The induction ceremony will take place on May 21.
Irbe’s distinguished international career began as a teenager at the 1985 IIHF European Junior Championship. He was named the tournament’s top goaltender, leading a Soviet Union squad that won the silver medal. Not long after, Irbe burst onto the professional stage with Dinamo Riga in the then-Soviet national league, winning Rookie-of-the-Year honors.
While Irbe starred for Dinamo Riga for four full seasons, he also played in two consecutive IIHF World and European Championships for the gold-medal-winning Soviet Union – claiming the IIHF Directorate Award for Top Goaltender during the 1990 event. In 1991, when Latvia achieved its long sought-after independence, Irbe began what would become a stellar 12-year NHL career. He appeared in two NHL All-Star contests and backstopped his Carolina Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2002.
Irbe dressed for his native Latvia in eight more IIHF World Championships and two Olympic Winter Games, including the 2006 competition when he was selected Latvia’s flag-bearer for the opening ceremonies.
Joining Irbe in the IIHF Hall of Fame class of 2010, as chosen by the IIHF Hall of Fame committee, are Dieter Hegen (Germany), Vladimir Krutov (Russia) and Riikka Niemenin (Finland) in the players’ category. Rickard Fagerlund (Sweden) will be inducted in the builders’ category and Lou Vairo (U.S.) earned the Paul Loicq Award for outstanding contributions to international hockey.
The IIHF Hall of Fame, which was introduced in 1997, now boasts 160 hockey greats from 22 countries.