Star goalie to sit out of World Championships

  • 2006-04-19
  • From wire reports
Latvia's star ice-hockey goalie, Arturs Irbe, has resigned from playing in next month's World Championships, Latvia's TV3 reported. According to team coach Pjotrs Vorobjovs, Irbe will sit out of the championship because of a serious knee injury. However, TV3 reported that, according to unofficial sources, the goalie's main reason for not playing was the presence of former coach Leonids Beresnevs.

It is not yet clear whether Peteris Skudra, a second goalkeeper who has ignored the national team for many years, will participate in the championship. Without him, Vorobjovs will have only three goalies on his team -- Sergejs Naumovs, Edgars Masalskis, and Martins Raitums.

Irbe has a long reputation for his patriotism. In 1990, the athlete won a gold medal playing for the U.S.S.R. team, and was honored as "best goaltender of the championship."

The following year, he joined thousands of dissidents who congregated behind barricades in Riga's Old Town, protecting the city from Soviet tanks. After the historic event, Irbe refused to play for the Soviet Union.

"When we are leading an independent Latvia, I believe I have no moral right to defend the red color," Irbe said at the time. His words were bold, and could have cost him his career, as Latvia was still part of the Soviet Union.