Images of Tertyshny's death haunted Belanger for weeks. Belanger started binge drinking, and at least partly because of that he didn't get promoted to the Flyers over the next 18 months. "The bar would close; they'd kick me out; I'd sleep for two hours and go to practice," he says. "I was trying to forget." After the organization released Belanger, he entered a rehab clinic in Scranton, Pa. "My career was on the line," Belanger says. "My life, too."
Following 12 days of therapy he emerged sober and energized. He skated and trained for five hours a day until the Citadelles offered him a seven-game contract on Jan. 13. Belanger scored eight goals in his first six games. After passing a detailed psychological exam, he signed with the Canadiens and has impressed management with his drive to make the most of his second chance. He has limited, but not given up, his drinking, and when Montreal is at home, he often eats quiet meals with his parents, Gerald and Diane. "From where I was, this is a dream," Belanger says. "The hardest thing for a player to do is to ask for help."
Injuries Rock Blues
Will They Be Survivors?
The writhing is on the wall in St. Louis. Though the Blues were only three points behind the Avalanche through Sunday in defense of their Presidents' Trophy, St. Louis had dropped seven of its last nine games, mainly because five key players were sidelined with injuries. Last season's league MVP Chris Pronger (broken left forearm) may return for the playoffs, but 1999 Norris Trophy winner Al MacInnis (displaced ligaments in his left eye) isn't sure he'll be back before next season. Top sniper Pavol Demitra (deep cut in his right leg), No. 2 center Michal Handzus (torn abdominal muscle) and all-world pest Tyson Nash (torn right ACL) should return this month.
These setbacks may force G.M. Larry Pleau to be aggressive before next Wednesday's trade deadline so that the Blues can hold on to a high playoff seed in the Western Conference. "You might think of trading for a higher-level player than you normally would," says Pleau, who's pursuing Coyotes power forward Keith Tkachuk.
In the season's first half St. Louis was a Stanley Cup favorite, but it has lost that status as injuries have taken their toll.