Belfour belongs in Hall

(QMI Agency files)

(QMI Agency files)

Mike Zeisberger, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:00 PM ET

There is no denying that Eddie (The Eagle) Belfour was a different type of bird.

From his meticulous game-day preparations to his at-times headline-grabbing off-ice antics, Belfour was eccentric in many things that he did.

Just ask any of his former teammates. Or, for that matter, some of the NHL equipment guys who were in charge of making sure his pads and gloves were just perfect. (They had to be ... or else).

Having said that, no one can argue that Belfour was not one of the top goaltenders of the past two decades. The numbers show that he was.

Belfour ranks third in career goalie wins (484), is tied for ninth with Tony Esposito in shutouts (76), is tied for fourth with Isles great Billy Smith for playoff victories (88); and also has a Stanley Cup victory, two Vezinas, a Calder Trophy, four William Jennings Trophies for the league’s best GAA and five all-star appearances on his resume.

If those aren’t Hockey Hall of Fame credentials, we don’t know what are.

The Hall of Fame will be front and centre in the coming days as the hockey world congregates in Toronto to celebrate the Class of 2010, an illustrious group that includes Dino Ciccarelli, Cammi Granato and Angela James in the players category. In the builders category, Jim Devellano and the late Daryl (Doc) Seaman will be honoured.

The festivities will include next weekend’s Hall of Fame game between the Maple Leafs and the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday, the Legends Classic at the Air Canada Centre on Sunday, and the induction ceremonies, which take place Nov. 8.

Worthy inductees all. But what about 2011? Who might be the leading candidates to enter the Hall 53 weeks from now?

Truth be told, the group of first-time eligible players probably is one of the weaker ones we’ve seen in recent years. Along with Belfour, the list includes the likes of Trevor Linden, Glen Wesley, Derian Hatcher, Stu Barnes and Dallas Drake.

Of those, Belfour would seem like the only one to have a legitimate shot to be inducted right away, if at all.

Critics might point to some of Belfour’s indiscretions away from the rink as sufficient reasons to keep him out. We all remember, for example, the incident in 2000 when an intoxicated Belfour allegedly offered Dallas police $1 billion to release him without charges.

Or the 2006 affair on Long Island where Belfour was allegedly involved in a night club scuffle and Florida Panthers teammate Alex Auld ended up needing stitches above his right eyebrow.

But Ciccarelli had some off-ice skeletons in his closet, as well, pleading guilty to indecent exposure and receiving probation in 1987.

It seems the selection committee, by inducting Ciccarelli, is saying: “Let bygones be bygones.” If that’s the case, shouldn’t the same rule apply for Belfour?

Or, for that matter, ex-Leaf Doug Gilmour, who some feel has been blackballed from the Hall for some alleged off-ice indiscretions of his own early in his career.

Here’s the bottom line: Gilmour is 17th in NHL career scoring, registering 214 more points in his illustrious career than Ciccarelli. He is eighth on the playoff scoring list, ranking ahead of the likes of Steve Yzerman and Mario Lemieux.

While we applaud the committee for finally looking past Ciccarelli’s past problems, it has set a precedent, one that should get Belfour and Gilmour into the Hall.

It is, after all, where they belong.

DECK THE HALL

For guys like Gilmour, Adam Oates and Joe Nieuwendyk — three players who definitely should be in the Hall but have been snubbed in past votes — 2011 is their best opportunity to be inducted, especially with the all-star cast of players who will be eligible the following year. That 2012 list includes Mats Sundin, Jeremy Roenick, Brendan

Shanahan, Gary Roberts, Claude Lemieux, Olaf Kolzig and Markus Naslund ... Whether you agree with inducting women into the Hall or not (and we do), the fact that the precedent that has been set should mean that Cassie Campbell and Hayley Wickenheiser are future shoo-ins. That’s the opinion here, anyway ... And hey, we’ll begrudgingly give the committee a mulligan for bypassing Pat Burns ... but only this time around.

mike.zeisberger@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/zeisberger


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