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Press Release: HURRICANES TO ALLOW IRBE, OZOLINSH TO PLAY IN TWO OF THREE OLYMPIC QUALIFIERS

by Staff Writer / Carolina Hurricanes

LATVIA NATIVES MAY JOIN NATIONAL TEAM FOR TWO QUALIFIERS

RALEIGH, NC (Jan. 7, 2002) - Jim Rutherford, CEO and General Manager of the National Hockey League Carolina Hurricanes, announced today that goaltender Arturs Irbe and defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh have been granted permission to participate in any Preliminary Round game of the 2002 Men’s Olympic Hockey tournament for their native Latvia that does not conflict with a Hurricanes game.

Irbe and Ozolinsh, both natives of Latvia’s capital city of Riga, may join their national team for Latvia’s games on Feb. 9 against Austria and Feb. 12 against Germany. The Hurricanes have games at Anaheim on Feb. 8 and at San Jose on Feb. 10. Irbe and Ozolinsh will miss Latvia’s qualifier on Feb. 10 against Slovakia due to the conflict with Carolina’s game at San Jose.

“It is always an honor to play for your country, and we feel it is very important to allow Arturs and Sandis to participate in the qualifying round,” said Rutherford. “We wish them good luck in advancing to the final round in the Olympics.”

The 2002 Men’s Olympic hockey tournament will be played in Salt Lake City in two phases: a preliminary round and a final round. Between Feb. 9 and Feb. 13, eight teams will play three games each. Latvia can advance to the tournament’s final round if it wins Group A, which also includes Slovakia, Austria and Germany. Irbe and Ozolinsh will be able to join the Latvian squad for their final qualifier, a 7:00 p.m. (MST) game against Germany on Feb. 12.

Both Irbe and Ozolinsh played for Latvia at the 2001 World Championships in Germany. Ozolinsh led all Latvian defenders and was fifth among tournament defenders in scoring with five points (0g, 5a). Irbe, who has represented Latvia in the World Championships four times, stopped 42 shots to earn a shutout in Latvia’s 2-0 upset of the United States during group play.

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