The Buffalo Sabres have announced plans to honor Dominik Hasek, the Hart and Vezina winning goaltender that led the Sabres to the Stanley Cup Finals in the 1998-99 season. The Sabres inducted Hasek into their Hall of Fame game prior to their game against the Tampa Bay Lightening, and announced that Hasek’s jersey, number 39, will be retired next season.
Hasek’s jersey may be being retired, but the goalie called “The Dominator” had a tough time facing retirement. When he couldn’t catch on with an NHL team, Hasek played in the KHL, and tried as recently as last summer to get back to the NHL. When there were no offers forthcoming, Hasek announced his retirement, and apparently he means it this time. When asked if he would be willing to help out the last place Sabres after Ryan Miller was traded away, Hasek replied politely, but firmly during an interview with USA Today:
“Thank you, but no thank you. Hockey was part of my life. I enjoyed it. But not any more as a professional player.”
As badly as the Sabres have been doing, adding Hasek surely couldn’t hurt. The Dominator compiled an all time record of 389-223-82-13, along with a career goals against average of 2.20 and a save percentage of.922. While he failed to win the Stanley Cup with the Sabres, he did hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup twice, with the Detroit Red Wings, after the Sabres traded him away on July 1, 2001. The trade was controversial, in that Hasek had a rocky relationship with head Coach Ted Nolan. Rumors were flying that Hasek didn’t want Nolan back as coach in 1997, and that Nolan felt that Hasek may have been faking injuries and that he wasn’t tough enough for Nolan’s liking. Nolan is back as the Sabres head coach, and Hasek said that all is forgiven.
“Whatever happened, what can I say about it? Sometimes you feel a different way than the other person, sometimes you feel that your decision is better than his decisions. But I think on the ice that one or two years that we were together we done a good job for this organization, and I’m looking forward to seeing him and I wish him good luck to improve the Sabres.”
Hasek did indeed speak to Nolan on Friday, and Nolan continued the newly minted love fest…sort of.
“I still don’t know what really transpired back then, but back then is back then.We had a nice talk. We had some good times and everybody looks at one incident, and one incident doesn’t form a relationship. In media, I guess, sometimes we blow things way out of proportion and make it look worse than it really was. It really wasn’t all that much. People have disagreements all the time.”
Hasek is now a member of the Buffalo Sabres Hall of Fame, and will be eligible for the NHL Hall of Fame for the first time this summer. On the night that the Sabres honored Dominik Hasek, they lost in overtime to the Tampa Bay Lightening…not even the inspiration of The Dominator could help the Sabres.