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Eddie "The Eagle" Belfour
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2003 Playoff Article

True Determination...

Ed Belfour
Ed Belfour will try to get the Maple Leafs past the Flyers in a tough first round Playoff matchup.

Belfour sweats the details
By John McGourty | | April 14, 2003

Engage Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Eddie Belfour in a conversation about the kids in the Make A Wish Foundation or bass fishing, deep-sea diving, golf, flying, classic cars and dragsters and he's comfortable.

Give him his choice of talking to a newspaper reporter about his goaltending skills or having a root canal without anesthetic, Belfour might view them with equal apprehension.

He's a mighty tough opponent, but he's not a braggart.

Belfour, 38 on April 21, is a blue-collar kind of guy, shy with strangers, from a small town in western Manitoba. He's detail-oriented and inventive.

In the offseason, the Chrysler aficionado works on his classic-car collection, which includes a 1970 Plymouth Barracuda, a 1965 Plymouth Belvedere, a 1968 Chevy Camaro, a 1950 Mercury and a 1939 Ford Coupe. His shop, Carman Custom in Freeland, Mich., restored a 1953 Chevy ?-ton truck for Pat Verbeek. They found the truck on a farm in North Dakota.

Resourceful, diversified, meticulous, inventive and gutsy are just the beginning in describing Belfour, who started with the Chicago Blackhawks during the 1988-89 season, played a year with the Canadian National team, then returned to win the Calder Memorial Trophy as rookie of the year, the Vezina Trophy and the William Jennings Trophy in 1990-91.

It was one of the greatest rookie seasons in NHL history as Belfour played a League-high 74 games and 4,127 minutes. He led the League with 43 wins to set a Blackhawks' record as they improved 18 points to win the Presidents' Trophy as the NHL's best regular-season team.

The following year they went to the Stanley Cup Finals where they lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in one of the strangest Stanley Cup Playoffs years of all time. While the Penguins required 21 games to gain their second-straight Stanley Cup, the Blackhawks played only 18 games. They beat the St. Louis Blues in six games, then swept Detroit and Edmonton, before being swept by Pittsburgh in the Finals. After dropping the first two in Pittsburgh, Belfour was stalwart in Game 3 at Chicago Stadium, stopping everything except a Kevin Stevens' shot that ricocheted off three players while Tom Barrasso posted a shutout.

Belfour would get another chance in the Stanley Cup Finals and this time he wouldn't lose. Belfour went 16-7 with a 1.67 goals-against average and a .935 save percentage to lead the Dallas Stars to the 1999 Stanley Cup.

He led the NHL in save percentage the next season and went 14-9 with a 1.87 GAA and .931 save percentage when Dallas lost in the Stanley Cup Finals to the New Jersey Devils.

Belfour also won another Vezina Trophy and three William Jennings trophies, plus an Olympic gold medal as a goalie on 2002 Team Canada. Trophies and championships have been part of Belfour's legacy for a long time. His 1983 Carman Cougars won the high-school championship and he backstopped the University of North Dakota to the 1987 NCAA championships, playing with Tony Hrkac, Bobby Joyce and Murray Baron.

Ed Belfour
This season, his first in Toronto, Ed Belfour went 37-20-5 with a 2.26 goals-against average and .922 save percentage.

The next year, while playing with the Saginaw Hawks, Belfour shared the Gary F. Longman Memorial Trophy with John Cullen and was named to the First All-Star team.

Belfour's ego was stung last summer when Dallas decided to go with young sensation Marty Turco. Belfour signed as a free agent, replacing Curtis Joseph in Toronto. Joseph believed Detroit would give him a better chance to win his first Stanley Cup.

Belfour went 37-20-5 with a 2.26 goals-against average and .922 save percentage. He kept the Maple Leafs in the race through a rocky start and was the team's MVP this season, according to GM/coach Pat Quinn. Belfour admitted there was an adjustment period in breaking in with a new set of defensemen and a different team style of play.

"It probably took me 15-to-20 games to become compatible with my defensemen," he said. "We got off to a bit of a slow start but once we got used to each other, it got a lot better."

"The Eagle" is one of the NHL's best-skating goalies, the result of playing center through the Bantam level of organized youth hockey. He became a goaltender because he could handle long periods of standing still in the biting cold of Manitoba arenas better than others.

He'll come out and stop an opposing forechecker from getting to a puck knocked loose in Belfour's zone, he stops and clears pucks behind his net as well as anyone and on certain nights when things are clicking for the Maple Leafs he seems to direct his rebounds to support the breakout. Here he either gets cagey or enjoys a laugh at being credited for something he says he can't do. Asked if he tries to direct rebounds to certain teammates, he said no.

"No, I don't really pay all that much attention. I trust all my defensemen, no matter who is out there," he said.

Ed Belfour
Belfour wears number 20 in honor of Russian great Vladislav Tretiak and credits him as a major influence.

Belfour worked with Russian great Vladislav Tretiak for a time in Chicago and credits him as a major influence. Still, he thinks he's not much different than the Ed Belfour of sixteen seasons ago.

"I'm pretty close to being the same," he said. "I still play the butterfly style a lot and I still play the puck a lot. I probably try to stand up a little bit more than when I was a rookie."

Belfour is the rare NHL player who appears taller out of uniform. He's a croucher, ready to drop forward on his knees. At 6-foot, 195 pounds, he's not small. He seems to have lost none of his quickness, even at 38. There's an explanation.

"Nutrition, exercise, but mostly staying motivated and working hard on and off the ice. Mostly, paying attention to everything I do," he said.

Belfour's positioning always has been excellent and leads to a lot of shots, even screened ones, simply hitting him. He stays calm amidst pandemonium and is sure-handed with loose pucks. His uniformly excellent save percentages are a result of the way his positions himself, not in response to opponent's attributes and proclivities. He says he keeps no "book" on opposing shooters.

"No, I don't think so," he said. "I focus on my positioning in net in relation to the puck."

Belfour has accumulated a great reputation, impressive career statistics, many awards and the Stanley Cup. He was asked what motivates him to a high standard at advanced athletic age.

"I'd love to be part of another Stanley Cup team," he said. "I have pride in what I do and try to be the best I can be. I'd like to be known as one of the best goalies to have played and one of the most competitive goalies