had it all figured out. With what he believed was a new contract in Washington, the veteran of nine NHL seasons had found a new house, a school for his oldest daughter, and stability in a career that had seen time with five teams. But things changed quickly.
One month after signing a lease on the house of former Capital Chris Clark
, the deal with Washington fell through. Belanger eventually signed a one-year deal with the Coyotes on Sept. 14, just two days before training camp. Belanger had to uproot his young family one more time.
"Finding a house, finding schools, all in two days -- everything happened pretty quick. I wasn't thinking much about hockey at first," Belanger said. "All of a sudden you have to turn around and go somewhere where you don't know anything. You don't want your kids to struggle. And you know it's all because of you, because I play hockey."
"All of a sudden you have to turn around and go somewhere where you don't know anything. You don't want your kids to struggle. And you know it's all because of you, because I play hockey." -- Eric Belanger
Practically overnight, the versatile forward was looking for stability with a franchise that in recent seasons had been seeking some of its own. For a player traded twice during the 2006-07 season, that security has been an important, if elusive, goal.
"After the deal fell through with Washington, I had some conversations with Don (Maloney, Coyotes GM). It was hard for me to trust anybody after that. I told him that," said Belanger. "Being able to sign an extension is the plan and was the plan all along. That's why I decided to go to Phoenix."
The previous six months had been tough enough for Belanger. After being dealt from the Wild to the Capitals at the trade deadline, he had to abruptly leave his young family in Minnesota. Then, during Game 5 of the Capitals' first-round series against Montreal, Belanger lost eight teeth to an errant high stick. He returned to action, but not before being caught on camera extracting one of his own teeth from his bloody gums.
Moving his two young children, ages 7 and 4, in a mad dash to Phoenix may have been almost as painful an experience. That he still owned his old house in Minnesota certainly didn't help.
"We showed them pictures of the school they were going to in Washington. In their little heads, they're going there. But in 24 hours you have to move somewhere else," he said. "They were happy when we told them it was going to be sunny and there was going to be a pool in the backyard."
Now contributing to a competitive Phoenix team, Belanger has put the summer issues behind him. He even has found the silver lining in a tumultuous offseason.
"I was lucky enough to get out of the lease in Washington," he said. "I just had to pay one month's rent to get out of it. That was the only positive point of the whole situation."
With his family settled and the situation in Phoenix stabilizing with impending new ownership providing hope for the franchise, Belanger finally can go back to answering questions about happenings on the ice, like his 4 goals and 15 points in 32 games this season.
Or about pulling out his teeth.
"I hear about it a lot," Belanger said of the cringe-inducing incident. "I never thought there was going to be a camera on me. I didn't do it for show, because it was pretty painful. I was just trying to see if I could save that tooth, but I guess it didn't work out."