Teammates to rivals
Hasek, Belfour enjoy friendly competition
Posted: Monday June 07, 1999 11:14 PM
Belfour was the starter and Hasek his backup for Chicago in 1990-91 and '91-92. The Blackhawks had the NHL's best regular-season record their first year together and went to the Stanley Cup finals their second season.
On Tuesday night, Belfour and Hasek will be back in the finals for the first time since then. This time, Belfour will be trying to lead Dallas to its first title and Hasek will be doing the same for Buffalo.
The goalies insist they are friendly rivals, with Hasek adding that their wives are close and that their kids played together for several hours at this year's All-Star Game.
If there was any tension during their Chicago days, both say it was nothing more than a healthy dose of competition.
"It was a tough relationship because he felt I was the person who could take his job and I felt he took my job," said Hasek, who started 25 games to Belfour's 123 over their two seasons together. "When we see each other off the ice now, we always say hello. I respect him."
Belfour smiled and laughed when asked if there was a problem with their 1-2 status in Chicago.
"I didn't see anything wrong with it," he said. "Maybe he had a problem with it because I was the No. 1 guy. But I didn't ever have a problem with Dominik.
"I've always enjoyed the challenge of competing against Dominik, even when it was in practice. He's a competitor and I love competition. I think it's going to be a great opportunity to play against him again."
Dallas' Tony Hrkac spent three months with the '92 Blackhawks and lived in the same building as Belfour and Hasek. He remembers the goalies being friends and sharing rides to the arena.
"Dominik was learning a lot from Eddie and Eddie learned a lot from Dominik," said Hrkac, who also was Belfour's college teammate and is now his road roommate. "They pushed each other. I think they're both where they're at because they were pushing each other."
The goalies' careers have taken extremely different paths before crossing again this series.
Hasek escaped Belfour's shadow a few months after Chicago was swept from the 1992 finals by Pittsburgh. After another year as an apprentice, he became a starter in 1993-94 and led the NHL in save percentage.
With his slinky spine and an uncanny ability to stop pucks when he shouldn't know where they are, Hasek has had the best save percentage every year since. He's also won four Vezina Trophies and two MVPs.
Now that Hasek has led the seventh-seeded Sabres to the finals for the first time since 1975, he's four wins from adding a Stanley Cup title to his long list of accomplishments.
"That is my only focus the last couple of days, and it will be my only focus for the next one or two weeks," said Hasek, who also is dealing with a groin injury.
Belfour won the Vezina in '93, then lost four straight in the first round of the playoffs. Suddenly, he became labeled a goalie who couldn't carry his team to greatness.
A rocky life in Chicago ended in January 1997 with a trade to San Jose. He joined Dallas in the offseason and led the Stars to the best regular-season record, only to lose the Western Conference finals in six games.
Belfour's old label was reattached following that series, but he's coming close to dropping it. He and backup Roman Turek led Dallas to its first Jennings Trophy for the lowest goals against average and the Stars again had the NHL's top regular-season record.
Dallas reached its first finals since moving to Texas six seasons ago with a Game 7 victory over second-seeded Colorado in the Western finals. Belfour outplayed counterpart Patrick Roy throughout the series.
Stars coach Ken Hitchock said Belfour is playing up to his potential because he's remained focused only on stopping pucks.
"Ed Belfour was a defensive person when he came here," Hitchcock said. "For us to get the best out of him, we needed the defense mechanisms dropped. And it was some wild times to get them to drop. But they're dropped."
Reputations are hard to erase. Roy alluded to it throughout the last round and Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff already is hinting that Belfour could go off.
"He's stayed very composed and been under control; he hasn't thrown any temper tantrums at all," Ruff said. "We're going to try to get to him."
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