Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Ed Belfour Jersey Card

Ed Belfour was a mostly-good goalie who had very bad years sprinkled in throughout his career. He won the Calder as the NHL's top rookie in 1990-91 despite also appearing in 23 games in 1988-89 and 9 playoff games in 1989-90 for the Chicago Blackhawks and also captured the Vezina Trophy as the GM's choice for top goalie that same year and in 1992-93, as well as the Stanley Cup in a hugely-contested 1998-99 Final where, according to the rules of the era, Dallas Stars superstar Brett Hull's series-clinching goal should have been disallowed.

The call was bullshit, as were Eddie The Eagle's Vezinas, as was his selection as a first-ballot Hall of Famer, which wouldn't have happened if he hadn't two very good seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs near the end of his career.

That's my biggest beef with Belfour: he was very good overall.

He had one excellent season (1994-95) in parts of nine years with Chicago, was awful with the San Jose Sharks, was very good for three of five seasons with Dallas but hugely protected by Ken Hitchcock's super-defensive system (and the likes of Derian Hatcher, Richard Matvichuk, Jamie Pushor, and Brad Lukowich while Sergei Zubov and Darryl Sydor were tasked with handing the forwards the puck), was mostly very good in Toronto save for the last season and all the playoffs, and was a parody of himself with the Florida Panthers.

And through it all, one constant: drinking.

I was first a witness to it at the 1993 All-Star Game held in Montréal where he and teammate - and former star defender of the Montréal Canadiens - Chris Chelios took full advantage of the city's legendary night life and were drunk at the skills competition (Belfour letting five goals in) and hung over during the game itself, with their Conference losing 16-6, including Belfour letting the Wales Conference team leave the ice with a 6-0 lead after one period, his opponent, Habs legend Patrick Roy, getting the shutout at the other end of the ice. Maybe Chelios was a bad influence, though.

There were rumours throughout the years, but another documented case was his 2000 arrest in Dallas, where he scared a woman enough to have her call security on him in a hotel while she fled by cab, with Belfour retaliating by putting the bouncer in a headlock and assaulting him. Upon resisting his arrest, he offered the police officers "a billion dollars" if they let him go.

While in Florida in 2007, he got teammate Ville Peltonen in trouble for drunken disorderly conduct and resisting arrest again.

And earlier today, he was "arrested for criminal mischief and alcohol intoxication in a public place after an incident in a hotel early Tuesday morning":
The arrest report says Belfour was lying on the floor clutching a curtain rod that had been ripped out of the dry wall above a window when police approached him.
The report adds that Belfour was kicking a door to the locked spa in an attempt to get in. It says he had slurred speech, bloodshot eyes and could barely stand up.
The police say Belfour was not being compliant when officers tried to put handcuffs on him.
This was his smug mugshot:
This is not meant as an attack, slander or to make fun of him; the man needs help and he has pretended not to for the better part of the past 25 years, getting away with slaps on the wrist that have never taught him a true lesson.

After all, his liquor (whisky) company - Belfour Spirits - has a slogan that seems to tell us how he really feels:
None of this looks like someone who is trying to atone for their troubles with alcohol...

But back to his on-ice achievements.

Again, he was good. All-time great? In the era of Roy, Dominik Hasek and the great-in-numbers-only-but-has-to-be-included Martin Brodeur, not near that trifecta for sure. Considering some of the guys who came after him - Miikka Kiprosoff, Henrik Lundqvist, Roberto Luongo, Sergei Bobrovsky and Tim Thomas - not as consistent as those guys either, no, and no peak as high, either, having never once been dubbed the "best goalie on the planet" for even a year.

On the other hand, imagine if he'd been on top of his game for his entire career, would it have been more consistently close to his peaks, instead of riddled with valleys? Would it have lasted longer at a high level?

Who knows?

But considering the fact that not all retired Vezina winners other than Jim Carey are in the Hall, that some Conn Smythe winners aren't there either, and that one guy who has both will never get there - Ron Hextall, another uneven-but-mostly-very-good goaltender - they could have at least waited for a few years before letting him in.

Here he is in what many consider his "peak" years - a Cup victory, and two seasons with a GAA below 2.00 although Hasek and Ron Tugnutt also had a habit of turning in those types of performances at the time on lesser teams - wearing the Stars' best-looking uniform, the classic green star-shaped jersey from 1997-2006:
That's card #DM-EB from Upper Deck's 2017-18 Black Diamond collection and Diamond Mine Relics sub-set, numbered 63/299. I got it on Ebay in October for under $5. It features a black game-worn jersey swatch that is probably from that uniform.

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