At the Stars old practice rink in Valley Ranch, coaches had to walk through the players' dressing room to get back to their office, and Ken Hitchcock would sometimes take advantage of this journey to offer players advice in front of the media.
One such occasion came when goalie Ed Belfour was meticulously working on his pads at his stall. Hitchcock stopped to offer a golf analogy, asking Belfour: Whatever happened to the days when you would get the rented sticks and go out and shoot par?
Belfour looked up with confusion on his face, not really understanding the point.
Hitchcock explained that it was the player and not the equipment, that the great ones could adjust to anything.
Looking back now, though, the player and the equipment were intertwined for Belfour. His time spent perfecting his pads, sticks or skates was in a way a reflection of how he wanted to perfect himself. He lived by a certain code that helped make him a Hall of Fame goalie.
"That's just always how I've been," he told DallasStars.com. "I'm a perfectionist, and I want to work on getting things as close to perfect as possible."
Belfour has not really watched highlights from his career, but is trying to see some of the 1999 run to the Stanley Cup that concludes Tuesday with Games 5 and 6 of the Final against Buffalo on FOX Sports Southwest. He said he sees too many mistakes when he watches himself and it drives him a little crazy.
"I just seem to pick out the bad more than the good," he said. "I'll look at myself doing something and ask: How did I not know better?"
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Belfour said when he does watch, he enjoys the work of his teammates and remembers the camaraderie that they shared. He said memories come flooding back of how general manager Bob Gainey built a strong defensive team and how Hitchcock and assistants Rick Wilson and Doug Jarvis hammered on details to make the team better.
Belfour had a stellar career in Chicago in which he played nine seasons and won two Vezina trophies. However, when the Blackhawks started to break up the team, Belfour was traded to San Jose and had to reassess his career. He was an unrestricted free agent in 1997 and had a choice between the Stars and the Flyers. He said he picked the Stars in large part because of Gainey and his vision.
"It was a great fit for me, because Bob really wanted us to play great defense and he brought in the players to do that," Belfour said. "I look at it now and think, no wonder the goals against were so low. We didn't let people get a lot of great chances, we were always on the puck, it was pressure, pressure, pressure. That was the formula to win the Presidents' Trophy and win the Stanley Cup. We had that from top to bottom."
And Belfour was the final wall.
"Eddie was just so great, so dependable, and so competitive," said winger Brett Hull.
"You just always knew you had him back there," said center Joe Nieuwendyk. "You look at the goalies he beat in that run -- Grant Fuhr, Patrick Roy, Dominik Hasek -- that was incredible, and it showed how much he wanted to win."
The run against three Hall of Fame goalies is memorable. Maybe the best memory came when fans at Reunion Arena serenaded Roy with the chant of "Eddie's Better" when the Stars netminder would come up with a big save.
Belfour said it's something that means a lot to him.
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"It was incredible," Belfour said. "It motivated me. I wanted to prove I was the best -- and to know the fans were behind me, it put me on cloud nine."
Belfour said that he was always seeking to be the best goalie in the league, so he saw the competition and wanted to beat them.
"That was a big thing for me. Those goalies were considered the best of their time and I always considered myself the best, so it was a real challenge and now it's a feather in my cap. To say I was part of a team that beat all three of those guys, that's a big deal," Belfour said.
"Grant Fuhr was one of my heroes growing up, watching him win all of those Cups in Edmonton. So playing against Grant was an honor. I wanted to play my best and show what I could do. Playing against Patrick, the same thing. He's a very competitive guy. Same with Dominik … they both were touted as the best goalies at one point. I had the confidence to compete against those guys to prove I was as good or better than them. I enjoyed that."
It was part of the drive to be the best, and Belfour said he has carried that drive into his new career -- running Belfour Spirits, a company that produces whiskey. The company is run by Belfour and his two children, Dayn and Reaghan, and it is a labor of love and dedication, just like his hockey career.
Belfour stretched his career into his early 40s, but said that even then it was difficult to face retirement.
"It's tough when you retire. You're used to that routine for your entire life and then it just ends. I know it was difficult for the first two or three years and even now it's still tough. You miss the guys and being at the rink," he said. "For me, I'm really lucky to get the chance to build a new team here with Belfour Spirits. It reminds me of being back at the locker room."
Belfour and his son did a ton of research and then went through several classes to learn how to make whiskey the right way. Belfour said he is the mad scientist who tries all of the different flavor notes and experiments with different elements in making different spirits. He also has done a lot of work in packaging, and said he loves the artistic creativity of coming up with the proper look for his logo and his bottle design.
Video: The additions of Ed and Brett
He said being able to produce runs that are ready to sell now as well as runs that will age more than a decade is a challenge that the company is ready to meet. Dayn handles a lot of the production and Reagan runs a lot of the accounting. Belfour said he has a knack for knowing what tastes good.
"I do all of the research, the wood selection, the barrel selection, the char and toasting that we use, the yeast we use. It allows our whiskey to taste good at six months of age," he said. "We have some whiskeys that we're going to age, but we also have some that are ready now. We want it taste good right off the still. If it tastes really good when it comes off the still, it's going to be awesome when it comes out of the barrel."
Belfour said his nature as a perfectionist continues to pay off. So as nice as it is to be able to adjust and adapt to changes, there's also something to be said for fanatical attention to detail.
As for the golf story …
"Hitch actually was really fair and treated us really well," Belfour said. "For me, he gave me time off to rest, and he was very concerned with what would make me play my best. He got all over us at times, but he was just trying to motivate us, and we knew that. A smart coach knows what to say to get the guys to pull together."
And now, he gets to sort of serve the role of the coach.
"There's a lot to it that people don't see … just like on a hockey team," Belfour said of his company. "There's so much behind the scenes for each individual in how they work out and train all summer and prepare themselves, down to what the coaches do and then what the team does in practice every day. It takes a lot of time and dedication to stay at the level you needed to stay at. It's the same with making the whiskey. You really have to pay attention to the details.
"We're doing it the right way, and we're proud that we're doing it the right way."
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.
Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for DallasStars.com and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika, and listen to his podcast.