There's still so much to like about Ed Belfour. Maybe it's the sheer fact that he has that whole every man persona that seems to truly resonate with fans of any sport. That appeal was apparent on Saturday night in Dallas when he was honored prior to a game between the Stars and Minnesota Wild for his 2011 induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Between 1997 and 2002, "Eddie the Eagle" was a huge fan favorite in Big D and the fans at American Airlines Center definitely still show him much love with chants like "Eddie, Eddie" and "Eddie's Better," which they serenaded him with prior to his remarks to a sellout crowd.
And that was a big part of his appeal because for all of his crazy antics off the ice, one thing was always clear about this talented netminder it was that he always appreciated the fans. It didn't matter whether it was in Chicago, where he started his NHL career, San Jose, Dallas, Toronto or Florida, where his 16-year run in the league came to an end in 2007, he always had a soft spot in his heart those who supported the game and him in particular.
"Yeah, that's definitely one of those adrenaline builders. It always makes you want to play that much better," Belfour said of the support he received from fans.
But another endearing thing about the Hall of Fame goaltender is the path he took to reach hockey's most hallowed halls. After helping lead North Dakota to a national championship in 1987, he found himself undrafted but the Blackhawks signed him as a free agent and the rest is history.
He spent much of the next two seasons with the Saginaw Hawks of the now defunct International Hockey League and earned IHL Rookie of the Year honors in 1988 and was also a First Team All-Star during his only full season in the "I".
Belfour spent much of the 1989-90 season with the Canadian National Team before Chicago recalled him for the playoffs. And in the first nine postseason starts of his career, he gave a hint of things to come, going 4-2 with a goals-against-average of just 2.49.
The following year, he became the starter in the Windy City and after going 43-19-7 with 7 shutouts and a goals-against-average of 2.47 won the 1991 Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie and also captured the Vezina Trophy as the league's top goaltender.
In 1992, Belfour became an NHL All-Star for the first of six times in his career. All told, he spent much of his first seven seasons in Chicago before being traded to San Jose midway through the 1996-97 season.
His short stint with the Sharks didn't go so well but Dallas wanted him nonetheless and in 1997, he joined the Stars. He was a big reason why the Stars won their first-ever Stanley Cup in 1999 and also had considerable success under then head coach Ken Hitchcock.
But after Hitchcock was fired in 2001, he knew his time in Big D was nearing an end. Belfour signed with Toronto in 2002 and would spend three seasons with the Leafs before closing out his career with the Panthers in the 2006-07 season.
He did spend one season abroad with a second-division team in Sweden in 2007-08, but for the most part, he has been enjoying life after hockey since hanging up his mask and goalie pads and continues to live in the Dallas area, where he recently built a house.
Much of his time is now spent in the outdoors as Belfour is an avid hunter, fisherman and general outdoorsman.
"Yeah, during hunting season, we hunt deer and you can hunt wild boar all year around and coyotes. Enjoy doing that too," he said. "Just pretty much taking it easy, enjoying my time-a little bit of fishing, camping, outdoor stuff and hunting, enjoying my family and friends."
But he's also a dad with one son, Dayn, playing college hockey and another just learning to skate.
"He (my oldest is) at UNO (Nebraska-Omaha) and really happy about that. He's had a few starts this year. He's been working hard and hopefully he'll be successful. Hopefully he'll learn something at school. That's important too," Belfour said.
However, he also enjoys watching his four-year-old son just learning how to skate.
"I've got a little guy," Belfour said. "He's four now and had him on the ice a little bit too. Enjoy watching him skate and learn how to skate."
And whenever he can offer some sage advice to either of his sons, he's more than happy to do and finds that experience very rewarding.
"Yeah, it's definitely nice when you can work with them a little bit and when you see them do something out on the ice that you taught them, it's definitely a good feeling to know that you've helped somebody in a positive manner," Belfour said.
So, with what appears to be a love of teaching the game, could a gig as an NHL goaltending coach be in his future? Well, he did serve in that capacity for a short time with St. Louis several years back but he wouldn't rule out giving it another whirl in the future.
"Maybe someday, been building a house the last year and a half has kept me real busy. Now that that's done, maybe I can look at something like that," Belfour said.
With the incredible career he had in his 963 regular-season games and another 161 in the playoffs, one might think that he would look back on his 16 seasons in the NHL with an incredible sense of accomplishment, especially considering he wasn't even selected in the 1987 NHL Draft.
But instead of saying he did it, he looks back and gives much of the credit to his incredible career to where he feels like it needs to be, the teams he played on.
"I just feel fortunate that I had a chance to play on so many good teams. You have success when you're playing with good teams, good coaches and good organizations," Belfour said.
As far as his induction last fall into the Hockey Hall of Fame, for this almost incomparable goaltender, the most memorable part of that experience was getting to share such a special moment with all those people who had helped him reach such incredible heights as a netminder in the National Hockey League.
"That was awesome. It was a great weekend, first class, treated us right from the time we got there," Belfour said. "My mom and dad and all my friends were there. It was just overall a great weekend and something I'll never forget."