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.
|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
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.
|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
"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