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Eddie "The Eagle" Belfour
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The Eagle Soars Over To The WHA

Belfour buys into fledgling WHA team

Belfour buys into fledgling WHA team
May play for Dallas squad if locked out


As NHL players seek options in anticipation of being locked out in September, one of the more bizarre stories emerged yesterday when Maple Leafs goaltender Ed Belfour was introduced as part-owner of the Dallas Americans.

Dallas is one of the fledgling members of the nascent, and NHL-rival, World Hockey Association.

Not only has Belfour taken an equity position in the club, he will oversee its hockey operations, which will include hiring a general manager and coach this summer and, one would presume, poaching players from the league that will pay him at least $14 million (U.S.) over the next two seasons

Belfour even helped design the team's logo and jersey, which was unveiled yesterday.

The netminder, who won a Stanley Cup with the Dallas Stars in 1999, also said there's a "very real possibility" he will tend goal for the Americans if an NHL lockout occurs. And, he should have added, if the WHA actually plays games.

NHL spokesperson Frank Brown said the league has no policy in place to deal with one of its contracted players directly working for a competitor. He declined to comment on any other matters surrounding Belfour's unusual circumstances.

Belfour signed a two-year contract, plus a one-year club option, with the Leafs earlier this summer. And now a player who may become available because his union can't abide a salary cap, has taken an equity position on a team that will strictly enforce one.

Leafs general manager John Ferguson Jr. said he has met with Belfour and discussed the potential of the 39-year-old playing elsewhere. Though he didn't say it directly, it was obvious he would prefer the aging puckstopper with a wonky back not risk his health. Belfour was Toronto's most valuable player over the last two seasons.

"In terms of him as a player, he's a big part of our club and will be for at least the next two years. As for his off-ice ventures, he doesn't consult me," said Ferguson.

"We've had the discussion already (about him playing) and exchanged opinions and thoughts. He knows where I stand. At the end of the day, if we get to that point where we get beyond the expiry of the CBA, those players are free to choose what they do. However, should they incur injury and then (can't) come back when we get going again — and hopefully we don't deal with this — then that would be a different issue."

Ferguson said he doesn't think Belfour would risk voiding his contract with Toronto by playing with the Americans, but the GM made it clear there would legal questions if Belfour was hurt.

"If he's unable to perform, he would not be performing his obligations under the deal," said Ferguson.

Belfour said yesterday he was in the process of protecting his future earnings in order to open the door to play for the Americans.

"I'm working on the insurance now," he told the Dallas Morning News. "I don't want to sit around. I can stay in shape and play for this team."

Belfour began talking to the WHA and Americans owner Rick Munro, a former Torontonian, after the Leafs were eliminated in the playoffs. One of the WHA founders, Allan Howell, approached the goalie's agent because he'd heard Belfour was interested in getting into ownership.

Belfour had been thinking along the lines of acquiring a stake in an AHL team but was intrigued by an opportunity in Dallas. His wife is from there, he owns land there and plans to retire there after his career ends.

Munro confirmed that Belfour has an equity position in the team but would not say how much the goaltender has invested. He said he didn't consider Belfour's investment in a WHA team to be at conflict with his full-time employer.

"We don't consider ourselves rivals to the NHL," said the owner, who selected free agent Eric Lindros with his team's first pick in last month's WHA draft.

Eddie contemplates his future in the NHL