NHL Dictionary: One Billion Dollars

EDITOR’S NOTE: Hot on the heels of Arto Palovaara’s wonderful guest post for us last week – hopefully the first of many guest posts, though he is a very busy man – we are extremely excited to announce the addition of Ice Nation UK’s third “full-time” writer: Melissa Geschwind.  Melissa hails from New Jersey, USA, and has extensive professional experience writing about sports, including a stint covering the Buffalo Sabres during the Dom Hasek – Martin Biron transition era.  We are delighted to be adding not only someone with her experience, but also with the quality of her writing and knowledge of the game we hold so dear.  Please welcome Melissa aboard – we’re sure you’ll enjoy reading her as much as we do.

Image courtesy of fullscalesports.com.

As a hockey fan in the UK, odds are you long ago picked up the official terminology – no small feat, considering how hard it is to explain icing without making it sound like differential calculus. But knowing the formal lingo only gets you so far when it comes to following the NHL. You might have noticed that a certain percentage of what you read about the NHL sounds like gibberish – and not just “hybrid icing,” which still sounds like gibberish even to the people writing about it. This is about the shorthand that people picked up along the way, and that you missed by not following the league from birth. If you’ve ever felt like you’re being left out of an endless stream of inside jokes, despair no more: We’re here to help! Each week we’ll introduce you to the stories behind some of the references you’re likely to come across on Twitter or in blogs, so you can start feeling more and more like a native speaker of NHLese.
Today’s term is: One Billion Dollars.
To NHL fans, this is more than just a large sum of money (which it probably still is, although we haven’t checked today’s exchange rate). One billion dollars is the size of the bribe retired goalie/mad genius Eddie Belfour offered police to let him go after he was arrested for assault and resisting arrest on March 8, 2000 (he would later plead guilty to the latter charge). According to the police report, cagey negotiator Belfour initially offered $100,000, upping the proposed bribe only when that lowball attempt failed. He was, as you might imagine, less than sober during the proceedings.

Image courtesy of picstopin.com

Eddie the Eagle was never known as the most down-to-earth guy, so this incident really just reinforced – rather than ruined – his reputation. Also minimizing the damage was the fact that Belfour led the Dallas Stars to their second consecutive Stanley Cup Finals appearance that spring, when they fell just two games short of taking home back-to-back Cups. (The Stars’ 1-0 triple-overtime win over the New Jersey Devils featured one of the greatest goaltending duels of all time, with Belfour and Martin Brodeur each at the absolute top of his game.)
So Eddie walked away mostly unscathed and NHL fans got a billion-dollar punchline that still has legs more than 13 years later. Belfour has since been enshrined in the Hall of Fame, presumably on the merits of his outstanding career and not because he paid off the HoF committee, although I guess we’ll never know for sure. We do know that he gave us a $1,000,000,000 gift for which we will be forever grateful, and which we will never find anything less than hilarious.
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