When the Hawks traded backup goalie Dominik Hasek in the summer of 1992, they could be forgiven because starter Ed Belfour was already established as a stalwart, having won the Calder Trophy as NHL rookie of the year and the Vezina Trophy as outstanding goalie in 1991, and having led the Hawks to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1992.
When they dealt center Jeremy Roenick in 1996, Belfour himself in 1997, and defenseman Chris Chelios in 1999, there was no excuse. And they paid the price. After making the playoffs 38 times in 39 seasons from 1959 through 1997, the Hawks missed the playoffs in nine of the next ten years.
Fortunately, the Blackhawks are under new management now, they captured the Stanley Cup last year, and they are likely to be perennial contenders for the foreseeable future.
The four future Hall of Famers who were traded in the Hawks’ darker days are all retired now, and each will be entering the Hall in the next few years. Belfour, the first one eligible, was elected two weeks ago. “I didn’t expect it in any way,” Belfour said. “I was just flabbergasted.”
In addition to winning the Calder Trophy and the Vezina twice, Belfour won the Jennings Trophy for lowest goals-against average four times—three times for the Hawks and once for the Dallas Stars (in 1999, when the Stars won the Stanley Cup). His 953 games between the pipes ranks fourth in league history, and his 484 wins ranks third.
When his election to the Hall of Fame was announced, “Eddie the Eagle” said something that any Hall of Famer in any sport can well understand: “It is hard to put into words what this means to me.”
Hasek, Roenick, and Chelios will have the same feeling some day.