Blackhawks

Ed Belfour reflects on fulfilling 'childhood dream' of playing for Blackhawks

Ed Belfour reflects on fulfilling 'childhood dream' of playing for Blackhawks

While Troy Murray was attending summer school at the University of North Dakota he was also working out in offseason skates and practices there. Getting goaltenders for those skates wasn't easy. But a guy from Carman, Manitoba would drive down to Grand Forks, N.D., play in those games and then drive back home that night.

That guy was Eddie Belfour.

"He'd come in, put his gear on, and we thought this was just some kid that came from somewhere and, ‘Hey, thanks for coming, kid.' Little did we know, that's how he was making himself better," said Murray, who would later play with Belfour with the Blackhawks. "He walked onto UND, made there and the rest is history in how good he was at the collegiate level and as a pro."

The drive was there for Belfour then and it lasted throughout his career, which included eight seasons with the Blackhawks, a gold medal with Team Canada in the 2002 Olympics and a Stanley Cup with the Dallas Stars in 1999. On Thursday night the Blackhawks honored Belfour in their latest installment of "One More Shift."

For Belfour, it was a chance to be back where it all started – "it's always emotional coming back to Chicago. I had a lot of great times here," he said – with his favorite childhood team.

"The fans are always fantastic for me here in Chicago. I'll never forget the "Eddie, Eddie" chant. They're the ones who started it," Belfour said prior to taking his shift. "For me, getting a chance to play in Chicago stadium in front of the fans and how close they were and how loud the building was and the anthem was amazing. It was boyhood dream come true."

Ask Belfour's former teammates how best to describe the goaltender and the answer was pretty unanimous: intense.

"Intense is a good word. I think competitive is a really good word, too, because he was one of the few guys, few goalies who took working out very seriously [then]," Steve Konroyd said. "He used to train for triathlons, and this was in the late 80s, early 90s. For NHL players that was probably odd, but for NHL goaltenders that was crazy. He was ultra-competitive, different in ways but in a good way. He was a real character."

Denis Savard said Belfour's preparation for games was, "second to none."

"He always came prepared for a game, from focusing on that night and sharpening his own skates. He'd work on his own skates after practices sometimes for two hours. He was very meticulous about everything," Savard said. "We already know goaltenders are on their own program with how they prepare, but he was a special one. He was a battler, he was a winner and he was a great goalie for a long time."

Murray would face Belfour in 1996, when Murray was with the eventual Stanley Cup-winning Colorado Avalanche and Belfour was still with the Blackhawks. Patrick Roy got the best of that postseason series (Belfour led the Stars past the Avalanche in 1999 and 2000 playoff matchups). But Murray remembers Roy's confidence no matter who was in the other net, and Belfour had that same mentality.

"You need that as a goaltender. You want that challenge," Murray said. "You have to have that mindset because if you think you're second best, you're not going to succeed. That's what drives all these great players and Eddie had that mindset."

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For Belfour, those Chicago days were bittersweet. His first trip to the Stanley Cup final came with the Blackhawks. There were a lot of great times. There were a lot of tough times. But it was all worth it.

"Going to the Stanley Cup final was awesome to do in my first couple of years. Unfortunately, we didn't win and that's probably my biggest regret is that we didn't play well. It still haunts me some days," Belfour said. "But that happens sometimes when you're a younger player and you learn from it and get better. That's what I tried to do."

Belfour's body of work speaks for itself. The kid who first started honing his craft in pickup games at North Dakota had a tremendous NHL career. As for that competitiveness, he's still got it – even in jest.

"I was joking, ‘If I'm doing this [One More Shift], I gotta play at least five minutes,'" he said.

Kirby Dach emerging as impact-type player for Blackhawks

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AP

Kirby Dach emerging as impact-type player for Blackhawks

One of the top storylines going into Blackhawks training camp this season was whether Kirby Dach would be ready to make the jump to the NHL full-time. It was a goal of his, too, ever since he got drafted third overall in June.

But after exiting early in the final game of the 2019 Traverse City Prospect Tournament, Dach was placed in concussion protocol at the start of camp and didn't appear in any preseason games for the Blackhawks. It was a challenge to stay positive throughout the recovery process, but Dach knew he would eventually get his chance.

And he's taken full advantage of it.

Dach made his NHL debut on Oct. 20 against the Washington Capitals and was lined up against Alex Ovechkin's line for the majority of the game, logging 13:41 of ice time as the second-line center. He scored his first career NHL goal two days later and registered an assist in his third game. Things were off to a great start.

But now Dach is starting to get more comfortable in the pros and his offense is coming more naturally.

"I’m starting to play good," Dach said. "I have a lot of confidence in myself and the team is playing good so I think that kind of helps out with individual success. When your team is going the right way and you’re winning games and scoring goals and your top players are producing — not saying I’m a top player or anything — but it helps a lot when everybody is going and we’re scoring."

After having only one point in his previous seven games, Dach has four goals and two assists in a four-game point streak. He scored twice in Sunday's 4-1 win over Vegas and joined Eddie Olczyk and Patrick Kane as the only 18-year-olds in franchise history to have a multi-goal game.

"He’s getting confident and he’s playing well," Kane said. "I think the biggest thing with him is he can skate with the puck and he can lug it up the ice. When you do that and you can drive the middle of the rink, there are going to be some opportunities for you and your linemates. You saw on both of his goals tonight, he drives to the middle, gets a pass and all of a sudden he’s in free. So that could be a big part of his game going forward but he’s really starting to feel some confidence."

Dach is up to nine points in 14 games this season, and his points-per-game average of 0.64 ranks fifth among all rookies. Only Cale Makar (1.10), Quinn Hughes (0.70), Martin Necas (0.70) and Victor Olofsson (0.70 rank ahead of him, but Dach is averaging the fewest amount of ice time (11:13) by a significant margin and is the only one on the list from the 2019 draft class.

"He's a tremendous talent," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "For him to step in as he has, he missed basically all of training camp and he's been a factor for us. He's helping us win. Got a lot of fun times ahead of us watching him develop and he's going to be a big-time player for us."

The biggest challenge for teenagers that break into the NHL right away is about staying true to who they are as a player. Most times, young players simply try to survive, and they get away from doing what they do best.

Dach isn’t showing any signs of timidness. He knows he can play at this level and wants to be an impact-type player in Chicago for a long time. 

And while he’s currently in a bottom-six role, expect Dach’s ice time to increase as he continues to prove himself as a high-end player. Because he can handle it.

"I feel kind of comfortable wherever I’m suited in the lineup," Dach said. "I just want to be in the lineup. I know whenever I step on the ice I have to be at my best to stay in the lineup and produce offensively, but at the same time make sure I’m good in my own zone and throughout the neutral zone. The one thing I’ve learned here is to have a good overall game and be a good 200-foot player."

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Four takeaways: Kirby Dach lifts Blackhawks to fourth straight win

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AP

Four takeaways: Kirby Dach lifts Blackhawks to fourth straight win

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres at the United Center on Sunday:

1. Blackhawks keep rolling

The Blackhawks were coming off their biggest win of the season, a 7-2 rout against the Predators just 24 hours ago in Nashville. And they followed that up with a strong 60-minute effort against the Sabres, who started out the season 8-1-1 but are since 1-6-2.

The Blackhawks have scored the first two goals in five of the past six games, and 21 goals during their four-game winning streak. They also improved to 4-0-0 on the second leg of a back-to-back this season.

"It’s nice to get on a little bit of a run here," Patrick Kane said. "It’s something we’ve been waiting for all season. We play pretty well in these back-to-backs so nice to put a little stretch together and feel good about our game. Obviously we’re getting production from all over the lineup right now and I think that’s key if you’re going to go on some winning stretches."

2. Corey Crawford stays hot

The Blackhawks are getting elite goaltending from Crawford and Lehner this season, especially as of late. Crawford came into the matchup with a 10-0-0 record, 2.04 goals-against average and .924 save percentage against the Sabres.

He improved those numbers on Sunday, turning aside 33 of 34 shots for a save percentage of .971. He is now 3-0-2 in his past five starts after starting the season 1-4-0.

"I thought we played great defensively," Crawford said. "Even after playing last night, we really didn’t give up that much, I thought. And then got a lot more goals, too. That seems to be rolling for us right now."

3. Kirby Dach extends point streak

After recording only one point in his previous seven games, the Blackhawks' top prospect is starting to heat up. He scored twice on Sunday night to tally his fourth goal in as many games and fifth of his NHL career. He also finished with four shots on goal.

With the goal, Dach extended his career-high point streak to four games. He has four goals and two assists over that span, and is up to nine points (five goals, four assists) in 14 games on the season.

Dach is the third 18-year-old in Blackhawks history to record a multi-goal game (regular season or playoffs), joining Eddie Olczyk (two goals vs. Detroit on April 10, 1985) and Patrick Kane (two goals vs. Columbus on Oct. 23, 2007). And he really tried completing the hat trick on his final shift with the help of Kane."

“I obviously wanted it pretty bad," Dach said. "Kaner gave me a couple of nice chances and I might owe him a steak dinner for missing those ones.”

4. Henri Jokiharju returns to Chicago

For the first time since being traded to the Sabres, Jokiharju returned to the United Center and did so as a member of the visitors. In fact, on his way into the arena he briefly got lost trying to find the changing room.

The Jokiharju trade was a controversial one because he was one of the Blackhawks' best defensemen last season, especially at the beginning of the season, and was traded for Alex Nylander, who was viewed as a reclamation project.

Jokiharju led the Blackhawks in even-strength ice time in his first 15 games under Joel Quenneville. But after the coaching change, Jokiharju's ice time averaged slipped and he was eventually sent to the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League.

"I think it's a little bit how the coach see you as a player and as a person," Jokiharju said. "I think that was one of the issues in here."

Whether that's true or not, both teams seem to be benefitting from the trade so far. Jokiharju has seven points (two goals, five assists) in 19 games with the Sabres. Nylander has nine points (four goals, five assists) in 18 games.

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