Top 20 Dallas Stars Players, #7: Eddie Belfour

Overview:
Eddie "The Eagle" Belfour was an undrafted goaltender who signed with the Chicago Blackhawks in 1987 and made his NHL debut in 1988 and would win the Vezina, Calder and Jennings Trophies in 1990-91 after posting 43 wins and a 2.47 GAA in his first full NHL season. Belfour would lead the Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup Final in 1992 and would once again win the Vezina in 1993.

Belfour was traded to the San Jose Sharks in 1997 after turning down a contract extension offer amid tensions with his backup, Jeff Hackett. Belfour would sign with the Dallas Stars in the summer of 1997 and would play five seasons in Big D, before finishing his career in Toronto and Florida.

With Dallas, Belfour enjoyed the greatest stretch of his career. He would win the Jennings Trophy in 1999 and more importantly, would lead the Stars to a Stanley Cup Championship that same year. Belfour won 160 games with the Dallas Stars, posting a 2.19 GAA during the span and proving to be one of the most clutch goaltenders of the era. Belfour was inducted int he Hockey Hall of Fame in 2011.

Why He's On The List:
Because he's Eddie Belfour, that's why.

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Looking back, it's tough to accurately put into words just how much Eddie Belfour meant to this town in the 1990's.

Andy Moog had long been a fan favorite, the only starting goaltender the Stars had known in Dallas, but after his departure in the spring of 1997 it became clear the team needed to make an aggressive move to become the contender they were building themselves up to be.

Belfour came with a lot of baggage. He'd developed a reputation as a crazed goaltender who wasn't friendly with the media and who had clashed with two of his backups -- including Dominik Hasek. Perhaps a bit more concerning was Belfour's reputation as a goaltender who folded in the clutch and who was unable to lead his team in the postseason. For the Stars, who had fallen apart against the Edmonton Oilers just a few months prior to signing Belfour, the risks were certainly plentiful.

Yet Belfour was exactly what the Dallas Stars needed to complete the vision that Bob Gainey had for the team he wanted to build. The goaltender fit perfectly into Ken Hitchcock's system and his brand of nastiness in the crease complimented the style of the defensemen in front of him. It was as if the Stars and Belfour had been made for each other and more importantly, the town of Dallas needed a goaltender like Belfour.

Before Eddie came to Big D, the Stars were a team filled with talent but not much personality. Mike Modano was the handsome face and superstar talent to sell the team yet the Stars had been built by Gainey on grit, determination and hard work -- not on a personalities the public could latch onto. With Belfour, the Stars found not only a goaltender who demanded perfection from himself and his teammates but a hockey player with a style unlike any other, making Eddie instantly into one of the most popular players on the team.

It helped that the Stars would win a lot with Eddie in net.

Belfour was the goaltender that every goalie in Dallas dreamed of emulating. He possessed nearly perfect mechanics but it was his innate anticipation and reflexes that truly made him great, a combination of skill and instincts that allowed Belfour to raise his game when the stakes were at their highest.

More importantly, Belfour learned to curtail the aggressive tendencies that had spawned the nickname of "Crazy Eddie;" while he would still unleash hell on those that dared to threaten the sanctity of his crease, he learned to not allow such outbursts to affect his play during games.

Eddie was the master of the cross-crease pad stack, of being able to see through traffic in order to make a deft kick save on a deflected shot. He was never a showboat, always a picture of stoicism when the stakes were at their highest. His ability to make the big save at the right moment became a staple of his play and the Dallas Stars, a team that would routinely shut down teams while holding onto one-goal leads late in games. The Stars just didn't lose games they were leading in those days.

No moments were greater, however, than when Eddie Belfour took the ice for the Stars in the postseason. Given the reputation of a goalie who collapsed in the postseason, Belfour came to Dallas with a stated mission of winning the Stanley Cup -- and in just his second year with the Stars he did just that.

Belfour would out-duel Tommy Salo, Grant Fuhr, Patrick Roy and Dominik Hasek in 1999 -- proving critics wrong about his ability to rise to the occasion. In 2000, he'd stand toe-to-toe with Roy once more and emerge the victor and came one unfortunate bout with the cold away from likely leading the Stars to back-to-back championships.

Once again, I find it difficult to accurately describe just how good Belfour was in those postseason series. Big save after big save, Belfour refused to be beaten. His determination inspired hockey fans across an area many said should never have the sport and I know for a fact that every time I put my pads on, I wanted to play just like Eddie The Eagle.

In fact, I'd hunch myself over my leg pads and do the same blink-head-nod-adjust-the-mask-with-a-jerk that Belfour would always do on the ice -- I didn't need to do, but I sure as heck wanted to.

Belfour's time in Dallas would end similar to how it ended in Chicago, when the pressures of a backup goaltender became too much. Yet that disastrous 2002 season is not what fans remember when we think of his time in Dallas -- it's how he did so much for the sport of hockey in Dallas and so much for the team he played on.

I have a feeling that you don't hear many home-town chants for the goaltenders these days because it feels that such a practice would take away from the glory of hearing the "ED-DEE, ED-DEE" chants that became so popular and so plentiful in those days.

When Eddie Belfour was honored last season at the American Airlines Center, the chants once again rang loud through the rafters. His former teammates were there with him on the ice and fans once again joined in the chorus that for so many of us became the rallying cry of the best days this franchise has ever known.

The Dallas Stars have enjoyed some great goaltending over the years since his departure, from Marty Turco to Kari Lehtonen -- but Belfour will always remain the symbol of Dallas Stars goaltending.

Here are a few features on Belfour, that highlight his incredible career.

Eddie Belfour Tribute Night:

Eddie Belfour Dallas Stars Highlights:

Eddie Belfour Hockey Hall of Fame Feature:

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