Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Notes From The Hall
I arrived in plenty of time for the introductions and opening remarks at the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday morning. I settled into my seat in the second row, with a clear view of the stage. As the ceremonies were about to begin, a man sat down directly in front of me. In an instant, I recognized him. That is why I did not ask him to move. His name is Gordie Howe.
As I am sure you are aware at this point in time, Gordie was there to see his son Mark. Mark is one of four retired players entering the Hockey Hall of Fame this year. Joe Nieuendyk, Ed Belfour, and Doug Gilmour have also been selected to enter the Hall.
Bill Hay, the Chairman of the Hall, started the gathering by stating: “This is as good a group as we’ve ever had going into the Hall “. The co-chairmen of the selection committee, Jim Gregory and Pat Quinn, introduced each inductee by reading the plaque notation.
After each player had received his ring, and participated in the “Puck Flip”, media scrums were held in various locations in “The Great Hall”, a fine room which contains the citations of all previous inductees and all of the National Hockey League’s hardware. The Stanley Cup rested majestically on the stage.
Ed Belfour is always described by every player, manager, coach, and hockey executive as a “character”. There are many definitions for that term, and Eddie likely fits them all. In many respects, he is a non-conformist. On several occasions, he was down right rebellious.
For example, most players are overwhelmed by the phone call one gets when one is informed that he or she has been chosen to enter the Hall of Fame. Eddie was taking a nap, a pre-game nap before his men’s league game. The call was then placed to his brother-in-law who took the good news to Eddie.
Because of the nature of today’s game, several of the inductees had spent some time together as team mates. Gilmour, Nieuwendyk, and Belfour played together in Toronto. Nieuwendyk noted that Belfour and Gilmour arrived early at the rink, for different purposes: Dougie to pull a prank like putting black shoe polish on the black toilet seat in the dressing room and Eddie to sharpen his skates.
In fact, the team always travelled with Eddie’s personal skate sharpener. Arrangements were also made to find Eddie’s favourite orange juice in every NHL city.
When pressed to come up with a special “Eddie Story”, Nieuwendyk stated, reluctantly: “There were likely moments in his career that he probably would like to take back”. He then added: “But he reveled in being the best in the game. In the 1999 Stanley Cup playoffs, he beat Grant Fuhr, Patrick Roy, and Dominic Hasek.”
Belfour grew up in Carmen, Manitoba. He played on five NHL teams from 1988 to 2007. He also won the Vezina Trophy as the lead’s best goalie twice. The first time he won it was his rookie year, when he also won the Calder Trophy as the league’s best rookie.
Belfour was considered to be a bit of a late bloomer, as he was never fast-tracked to the NHL. He bided his time in college hockey, awaiting his chance at the Show.
Belfour gave special recognition to the former great Russian goaltender Vladislav Tretiak, who was his goaltending coach when Eddie broke into the league with Chicago. Although Tretiak spoke no English at the time, Belfour understood. “He showed me what he wanted me to do, and I did it!”
When I asked him about his greatest experiences in the game, he mentioned the 2002 Team Canada Olympic victory. When asked about his best save, he said that he had robbed Federov in a game in Detroit. “I amazed myself,” he chuckled.
One of Belfour’s heroes growing up was Terry Sawchuk. He said that he had read Sawchuk’s book carefully. He was always a fan of the Habs great goalie, Jacques Plante.
Belfour said that he “would relish the opportunity to get back into the game as a General Manager. It would give me a chance to get closer to the game I love.”
Notes on the other inductees will follow in subsequent articles.
Keep your stick on the ice.