Skip to main content

Yves Belanger

Sometimes mimicking a great goaltender does not work out.

Take the case of Yves "Toots" Belanger back in 1978-79.

Belanger was a back-up goalie in the 1970s. The Baie-Comeau, Quebec native had emerged from the minor leagues to piece together a nice if sporadic resume with St. Louis and Atlanta. With the Flames he appeared to be the perfect co-worker for star goalie Dan Bouchard.

Belanger was never more excited for a NHL season than in 1978-79.

"I came to camp feeling better about this season than any other in my career," he said. "I knew this team could somewhere and I felt a part of it."

That would soon change. Bouchard and the Flames got off to an amazing start. The Flames started the year undefeated in their first twelve games - the best start in the history of the franchise and the third best start in NHL history at the time. Bouchard played all twelve games.

You could hardly blame coach Fred Creighton for not breaking up the winning formula. But it was not until November 14th that Creighton got the 26 year old Belanger into a game.

It was a disaster, to say the least.

The Washington Capitals - one of the league's weakest teams - scored on each of their first three shots. They scored five more and somehow hung on for an 8-7 victory.

A couple of weeks later Belanger surrendered six goals to start the game against the St. Louis Blues, and ended up losing 7-4.

So what went wrong? Belanger was so caught up in Bouchard's excellence that he somehow changed his game that had served him so well in the past.

"I had changed my whole style without even being aware of it," Belanger reflected. "I had watched Danny so much and seen him go undefeated that I picked up some of his style and it didn't work for me. I was really screwed up."

His confidence was completely shot. He was sent to the minors for a stint to try to regain his form. But far too often he just sat and watched his team play, and he went through the motions in practice.

"I couldn't get psyched up for anything. In the early part of the season and in training camp I worked harder than I ever had before. But as the season went on what was there to work for? What the hell was I going to do? Sit on the bench a different way or something?"

Belanger's season would get worse. He later would break his hand courtesy of a Ron Dugary zinger of a shot in a game against the New York Rangers.

Belanger surfaced in Boston for a few games the next season but was essentially done in the NHL. He would soon head to Canada's maritime provinces to continue to play in senior competition.


Popular posts from this blog

100 Greatest Hockey Players Of All Time

What follows is a listing of the 100 greatest hockey players of all time, in my opinion. As discussed earlier, the definition of greatness is a very personalized endeavor and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it.
While there is no way of ever truly ranking the top 100 definitively, it is important for the creators of such lists to be open and transparent of how the came to their conclusions. That accountability allows the reader to better understand the process. 

Although admittedly I'm using a completely unscientific formula, I weigh career achievements (era statistics, awards, championships) and legacy (impact on and off ice, peak dominance) equally high. I rank player ability as the third most important ingredient, as first and foremost as a tie breaker. Hence, I'm not necessarily looking for the better player, as in text book definitions of what a hockey player should be, but for players with the greatest careers and greatest legacies. Therefore the best player is not n…

Top Ten Junior Players Of All Time

Let's take a look at the Top Ten junior players of all time. For the purposes of this list we will at players in the WHL, OHL and QMJHL only.

10. Pat Lafontaine, Verdun, QMJHL Rookie-record 104 goals, 234 points in 1982-83; major junior player of the year.

9. Denis Potvin, Ottawa, OHL 254 games, 95 goals, 234 assists, 329 points. Broke Bobby Orr's junior records.

8. John Tavares, Oshawa, OHL 215 goals, 433 points in 247 games; most goals in OHL history; eligibility rules changed to admit him at 15; 2006 major junior rookie of the year, 2007 major junior player of the year; two world juniors, named 2009 all-star, top forward and MVP.

7. Sidney Crosby, Rimouski, QMJHL 120 goals, 303 points in 121 games; two-time major junior player of the year; silver and gold with Canada at two world juniors.

6. Eric Lindros, Oshawa, OHL 97 goals, 216 points in 95 games; one Memorial Cup victory; three world junior tournaments; major junior player of the year in 1991.

5. Mike Bossy, Laval, Q…

Greatest Hockey Legends: M