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Former UND goalie Ed Belfour to be enshrined by NHL

There were no websites or blogs to rank top college hockey recruits in 1987. Even so, a 21-year-old who played three years of juniors in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League probably wouldn't have made any lists. Carman, Man., native Ed Belfour was ...

Ed Belfour

There were no websites or blogs to rank top college hockey recruits in 1987.

Even so, a 21-year-old who played three years of juniors in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League probably wouldn't have made any lists.

Carman, Man., native Ed Belfour was not pegged for stardom from the beginning.

"He was a late bloomer as a lot of goaltenders are," said UND associate coach Cary Eades, who helped recruit the goalie to Grand Forks. "He was definitely not a superstar in his early years. He really blossomed in his last year of junior. He was really consistent over the longterm. That's what impressed us.

"The more we got to know about him, we discovered he was a world-class athlete."

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He proved to be a world-class goaltender as well.

Belfour went on to accomplish just about everything in his hockey career: a college hockey national championship, a Stanley Cup, an Olympic gold medal, a Calder Trophy as NHL rookie of the year and two Vezinas as the best goaltender in the world.

On Monday, he will add perhaps the grandest achievement of all. Belfour will become the first former UND player inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. Belfour, a first-ballot selection, will be enshrined along with Doug Gilmour, Mark Howe and Joe Nieuwendyk.

Among the special guests in Toronto to celebrate with Belfour are Eades and Belfour's former Sioux teammates, Jeff Bowen and Scott Koberinski.

"We're pretty proud of him," Bowen said. "It's pretty cool. Can you imagine going into the Hockey Hall of Fame? It doesn't get any better than that."

UND career

Belfour's career started as low-key as his personality. When he arrived at UND in the fall of 1987, he wasn't even a slam-dunk starter. Scott Brower started 31 games as a freshman and 20 as a sophomore.

But his teammates quickly learned about Belfour's talents and dedication.

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He started working out with teammates in the summer of 1987. He would work a job in Manitoba during the morning and day, then drive to Grand Forks to skate with the team at night. He would drive home the next day and do it all over again.

"His work ethic was second-to-none," Bowen said.

It didn't take long for Belfour to be the team's No. 1 goaltender. Belfour played 33 games and went 29-4. He set a school record for wins that stood until Aaron Dell reached 30 last season.

"We knew he was something special," Eades said. "On top of his athletic ability, he was a fierce competitor. He still is today. That's one of the traits that made him an all-time great. He never gives up on a puck. He hates being scored on, even in practice. He was the ultimate competitor."

Eades even remembered Belfour snapping sticks during practice after allowing goals.

But that competitive spirit helped him backstop what is widely considered the greatest Western Collegiate Hockey Association team ever to a regular-season title, a postseason title and the national title.

"If we didn't play well, for whatever reason, we knew we had Ed backstopping us," Bowen said. "That team still holds a bunch of NCAA records and one of the main reasons is Ed Belfour."

That was the only year Belfour spent at UND. After the season, he signed an NHL contract with the Chicago Blackhawks, who received words of recommendation from John Marks, a former Blackhawk great who was an assistant coach with the Sioux at the time.

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"At that time, hardly anyone left after one year," Eades said. "Eddie had such a phenomenal year and a fantastic offer from the Blackhawks that he couldn't pass it up. We were disappointed to lose him, but at the same time, very supportive."

Continued accomplishments

Belfour instantly had success in the NHL, winning the rookie of the year award in 1990-91 with the Blackhawks. He went on to play nine seasons with Chicago and a half of a season with the San Jose Sharks.

Belfour then went to the Dallas Stars, where he backstopped the team to the Stanley Cup in 1999. His former Sioux teammate, Tony Hrkac was on that squad, as was former UND defenseman Craig Ludwig.

He ended his career with stints in Toronto and Florida. In all, Belfour played 18 years in the NHL for five teams and won 963 games - third behind Martin Brodeur and Patrick Roy. He led the NHL in goals-against average four times, winning the William Jennings Trophy each time.

"When the puck dropped, he was a fierce competitor," Bowen said. "His internal motivation was unmatched. I've never seen anything like it. He was a consummate pro at a young age with the attention to detail in his game."

Staying in touch<?b>

Although Belfour only spent one year in Grand Forks, he has remained close to the program throughout the years.

Belfour has stopped by Ralph Engelstad Arena for several games since he retired in 2007. He even practiced with the Sioux in the preseason before his final year of pro hockey in 2006.

Belfour was inducted into UND's Hall of Fame last year.

"He's got a big heart, he really does," Eades said. "He's done a lot of things for people that he doesn't want anyone to know about. . . it's not for public attention. He really is genuinely a very good person. That's kind of neat to be around, especially when you understand the depth of his popularity."

Reach Schlossman at (701) 780-1129; (800) 477-6572, ext. 129; or send e-mail to bschlossman@gfherald.com .<?i>

Related Topics: HOCKEY
Schlossman has covered college hockey for the Grand Forks Herald since 2005. He has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors as the top beat writer for the Herald's circulation division four times and the North Dakota sportswriter of the year once. He resides in Grand Forks. Reach him at bschlossman@gfherald.com.
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