|Born: February 2, 1967 in Riga, Soviet Union
Undoubtedly the most famous Latvian-born ice hockey player of all time, Arturs Irbe experienced one of the more unique careers that any athlete could. Irbes initial international success came during the 1985 IIHF European Junior Championship when he was chosen as the tournaments top goaltender en route to a silver medal for the Soviet Union squad.
Not long after, Irbe burst onto the professional stage with Dinamo Riga in the then Soviet national league, winning Rookie-of-the-Year honours and leading the club into the finals against the perennial champion CSKA Moscow during the 1987-88 campaign.
Irbe not only starred for Dinamo Riga for four full seasons, he 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 the political landscape changed dramatically and 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.
Perhaps Irbes proudest moment, however, came when he dressed for his native Latvia for the first time, in the 1996 IIHF B Pool World Championship. He led Latvia to promotion to the top division and the country has never looked back.
In all, Irbe represented Latvia in eight more IIHF World Championships and two Olympic Winter Games, including the 2006 competition when he was selected Latvias flag-bearer for the opening ceremonies. In one of the most emotionally charged international games in modern history, Irbe led Latvia to a 3-2 win over Russia in the 2000 IIHF World Championship in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Irbe is currently goaltending coach with the NHLs Washington Capitals.