Work in Sports
When the Stars need him most, Belfour provides stability
Posted: Friday June 09, 2000 07:59 PM
By Mike Ulmer, SLAM! Sports
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- He is a difficult man to fathom and, a slave to his own need for control, Ed Belfour may not understand himself any more than the world does.
But my, oh my, how magnificently he played goal last night. How steadfast and resourceful he was as the Dallas Stars defeated the New Jersey Devils 1-0 in triple overtime.
The Stars will taste Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final because, for them, Ed Belfour, at the doddering age of 35, was an old oak in a windstorm.
The guy who allegedly offered a security guard $1 billion to forgo his arrest in a drunken hotel spree this March is an expert in everything from the triathlon to drag racing to fly fishing, but a klutz with prescription drugs.
So manic in his need to control detail when he played with the Chicago Blackhawks, he sometimes would rise from bed at 2 a.m., drive to the rink and sharpen his skates. Eddie the Eccentric.
A couple of years ago during the playoffs against Detroit, Eddie took the Stars out of the playoffs when he tried to disembowel the Red Wings' Martin Lapointe in Game 4. He came apart and handed the Wings a six-game victory. Eddie over the Edge.
Last night during the second overtime, Claude Lemieux showered Belfour with ice. Belfour picked the snow off his face and played on. Eddie the Anchor.
Every brushstroke on his goaltender's mask is his own design and he is so chronically insecure that his spats with backup goalies are legendary. Eddie the Control Freak.
And yet in conversation, Belfour is unlike any other athlete, childlike in his gentleness and winning in his awkwardness in front of the media.
Obsessed with acceptance and yet always outside the Stars' inner circle, he was the club's lifeblood last night. Great, save for his prescription-drug inspired six-goal stumble in Game 1, he was somehow greater. Last night he was a 35-year-old at the peak of his powers, stopping 48 shots. He was a cornerman who refused to let his battered boxer shed a drop of blood.
He stopped Sergei Brylin early in the first overtime with a flick of his blocker and Bobby Holik with a superb pad save in the second. He made too many saves, big and small, to list here but perhaps his finest moment came during the second overtime when he stopped Alexander Mogilny, a onetime 76-goal scorer, like he was swatting a late autumn fly.
Last night, Belfour's Stars seem to age incrementally with each shift. The Stars outplayed the Devils in the first period but they were succumbing a little bit every period, as if poisoned slowly by the Devils' youth and superior collection of forwards.
This is what the Stars had left last night, a shortened bench, a revitalized Joe Nieuwendyk, an exhausted Derian Hatcher, Mike Modano and Brett Hull. Not nearly enough but enough anyway. Eddie the Antidote.
It should come as no surprise. Only the Montreal Canadiens lost more man games to injuries than the Stars this season and yet Belfour went 32-21-7. He gave up an average of 2.10 goals a game, posted the NHL's best save percentage at .919 and when he was omitted by the league's general managers as one of the three finalists for the Vezina Trophy, the Stars seethed.
And yet, Belfour's most famous move this season came in March when he was arrested in a Dallas hotel for creating a disturbance. He threw up all over himself, caused the organization profound embarrassment and prompted the league's most wry scouting report: "Does not react well to mace."
And at the end, he was the last man standing, the architect of a 1-0 victory that should be remembered long after this series is decided.
Call him Eddie the Answer.