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Ed Belfour ready to skate 'One More Shift' for UND

The Hockey Hall of Famer says 1987 was one of his most memorable years.

Ed Belfour
Former UND goalie and NHL star Ed Belfour waves to the crowd as he's introduced before the start of a 2017 UND game against Denver in Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks.
John Stennes / Grand Forks Herald
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GRAND FORKS — Ed Belfour was lightly recruited when playing junior hockey in Manitoba.

He had an offer from one Division-I school and one Division-III program.

But he didn't take them.

"I didn't want to play anywhere else," said Belfour, of Carman, Man. "I always wanted to be a Sioux. I held out as long as I could. I played Tier 2 junior in Winkler as long as I could. I was obviously thankful they were interested, because my heart was set on playing for the Sioux."

Belfour was 21 years old when he made it to UND. He played one season in Grand Forks, backstopping UND to the 1987 NCAA national championship, while setting the school record for most goalie wins in a single season.

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After that quick stop in college, Belfour moved on to one of the most decorated careers of any goaltender.

He played 18 years in the NHL. He won a Stanley Cup. He won an Olympic gold medal. He won nearly 1,000 games and became the first UND player inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

The one year at UND seems like a blip on Belfour's career resume. But that's not the way he looks at it.

Throughout his pro career, many of his closest friends remained those he met during his time at UND. They've continued to stay in touch across the decades and now have a group text message chat. Belfour brought the Stanley Cup to Grand Forks after he won it in 1999. He invited many of his former UND teammates to be at his side in Toronto for his 2011 Hall of Fame induction.

"The Sioux tradition is all about family, looking after each other, playing hard for one another, playing for the crest on our jersey," Belfour said. "We're a family here. We've always kept in touch. Every time I see the guys, it makes me so happy. I'm so happy and proud to know the fellas and that we're still in touch with one another."

On Friday night, Belfour will skate 'One More Shift' in a UND jersey.

Prior to UND's game against Miami, Belfour will put on the uniform, strap on the pads and take a couple of laps inside UND's zone. Then, he'll join the team on the blue line for the national anthem.

"It's going to be a great feeling," Belfour said. "I'm sure I'll have the butterflies and wish that I could get in goal. When you get on the ice and start skating with the fellas and the fans are going crazy, it's one of the best feelings ever."

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Belfour's shift was supposed to come last year, but because of border issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic, he asked to back it up one season.

He will have family members from Manitoba on hand for the event.

"UND hockey means the world to Eddie," said Tarek Howard, his 1987 teammate. "He's so excited about this weekend. If he could play the first 10 minutes, I swear to God, he would."

Belfour arrived in Grand Forks on Wednesday and even joined several of his old teammates in playing a city rec league game at Gambucci Arena.

"Eddie is one of the most loyal guys I've ever come across," said Scott Koberinski, a member of the 1987 team. "He said his funnest year of hockey was 1987, which caught me. This guy has won the Olympics, the Stanley Cup, he's in the Hall of Fame, but his true friends are the guys on the 1987 team."

Koberinski, who was at his Hall of Fame induction, talked about how much time Belfour spent with his old UND teammates that weekend.

"There were a lot of big-time names around there," Koberinski said. "He said, 'Guys, my true roots are here at North Dakota.' It's powerful when he talks about it. He really cares about that group of players. He cares about everyone; he cares as much about the water boy as much as he does about Tony Hrkac. He's a true teammate. We're fortunate to have him."

Belfour said his year at UND remains among his most memorable.

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"It's right up there at the top, believe me," Belfour said. "It's something I'll never forget. We talk often with each other about how much fun we had and what we did together. We all wish we could do it all over again every year."

Belfour lived with defenseman Murray Baron that year in the dorms.

"We were all in Walsh Hall," Belfour said. "Russ Parent and Brent Bobyck were roommates. Darryn Fossand and Steve Peters were roommates. Lee Davidson and Scott Brickey were together. We were all in that dorm together and we just all had so much fun."

An all-time great team

The 1986-87 team is widely considered the greatest in program history.

UND won 40 games that season and lost eight. It won the Western Collegiate Hockey Association regular-season title, playoff title and the NCAA national title, beating Michigan State 5-3 in Detroit's Joe Louis Arena in the final.

That team was coached by Gino Gasparini, Dean Blais, Cary Eades and John Marks.

"He'll tell you that after everything he's gone through, 1987 was one of the funnest years he ever had playing hockey," Howard said. "We had such a great group of guys. We were so close. Ed came in as this small town Manitoba kid. It didn't take us long to figure out he was something else. He was the most competitive athlete any of us had ever been around and that was infectious."

After the calendar flipped to January, that team closed the season 24-2 in its last 26 games.

"Gino always said it didn't matter what you did, you had to give your best every day and it will pay dividends," Belfour said. "Our whole team had that inner spirit and drive. We thrived off that. It was contagious. It went throughout our whole team. We worked our tails off to be the best we could be. It showed on the ice when we played."

Belfour signed with the Chicago Blackhawks after winning the 1987 national title to start his pro career. He won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year in 1991. He won the Vezina Trophy as the best goalie in the NHL twice. He won the William Jennings Trophy three times for having the best goals-against average in the NHL and the Roger Crozier Award once as holding the best save percentage.

Throughout that ride, he always stayed close with his UND teammates.

"If you look at the characteristics of Eddie Belfour, his traits are loyalty, perfecting his craft, extreme work ethic and he's an elite athlete," said Jeff Bowen, a member of the 1987 team. "He never forgets where he came from. He has told a majority of us on that 1987 team how he owes a lot to the University of North Dakota, Gino Gasparini and the coaching staff. He loved that team. He did so many great things in hockey — won the Stanley Cup, the Olympics, the Hall of Fame — and he always said he owes credit to UND. I think that's just his loyalty."

Belfour won't be the only distinct alum on hand this weekend.

The 1982 NCAA national championship team will be recognized Saturday.

"It's a great feeling to see those guys, be around them and see they have the same camaraderie with their team as we have with ours," Belfour said. "They always treat us the same, too. It's a great feeling to be around here and be a part of the tradition that has never been forgotten, and I hope it continues that way for hundreds of years. The culture that's been created here, you've got to protect it. You've got to keep it going. You cannot lose that culture. I've seen it happen at other organizations."

Belfour said UND's consistent success is "100 percent" due to the team's culture.

"That's why we all love coming back," Belfour said. "They treat all of us former Sioux players and our family first class whenever we're around. We all try to contribute back. It doesn't matter if it's small or large. All of us feel that way. We try to give back and give thanks."

Miami at No. 19 UND

When: 7:07 p.m. Friday, 6:07 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Ralph Engelstad Arena.
TV: Midco Sports (GF Ch. 27/622 HD).
Radio: The Fox (96.1 FM) on Friday, Cat Country (100.3 FM) on Saturday.
Stream: NCHChockey.com.

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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