Dominik Hasek: The Greatest Goaltender of All-Time
My cousin Tim and I grew up in the 80's as die-hard hockey fans and the Boston Bruins have always been our favorite team. We each laced-up the skates around the ages of five, and we're both fortunate enough to play the greatest game on earth for many years before succumbing to injuries.
Every Christmas Eve, our families would spend the afternoon and better part of the night at Tim's house in Medford, MA. While the adults were inside on each Dec. 24 holiday partaking in the Christmas festivities, Tim and I would be outside—rain or snow—playing street hockey.
Running around with Sherwood sticks with Graf hockey gloves on, we always pretended to be NHL players.
Aside from being Andy Moog, Cam Neely, and Bobby Orr of the Boston Bruins, the Buffalo Sabres were another team from the Adams Division that had a few players in which we grew fond of—Alexander Mogilny, Pat Lafontaine, and the greatest goalie in the world, Dominik Hasek.
On Apr. 9, 2009 the Boston Bruins defeated the Montreal Canadiens 5-4 in OT. We decided to sell our tickets (season ticket holders) to that game in order to save-up for the Eastern Conference playoffs that were scheduled to be played exactly one week later.
We got together at my house to watch the B's play their future first-round opponents and arch rivals on my new big-screen TV—had a few fermented beverages, and engaged in hours of hockey-talk.
One conversation in particular stemmed from an event that took place a few weeks prior. On Mar. 17, 2009 New Jersey Devils net-minder Martin Brodeur won his 552nd game—surpassing Patrick Roy, and becoming the all-time NHL leader in regular wins.
On a local sports radio station here in Boston a host of an afternoon show went on to say that Martin Brodeur is the greatest NHL goalie of all-time, and that, "Hasek doesn't breathe the same air as them (Brodeur and Roy)."
That was when the debate heightened, and the research began.
Born on Jan. 29, 1965 in Pardubice, Czechoslovakia, Dominik Hasek first played hockey at the age of six. Growing up through the Communist Era in his native Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, Hasek lived behind the Iron Curtain until his NHL debut in 1990. During this time—unable/unwilling to emigrate—Hasek started his illustrious Czech and Czechoslovak play.
At 16-years old, Hasek played in the top hockey league—the Czechoslovakia Extralgia—from 1981-90, for his hometown, HC Pardubice. He would play in his hometown for eight years, capturing two league titles, and winning numerous individual awards.
Czechoslovak & Czech Awards
- Five time winner of the Czechoslovak & Czech Republic Golden Hockey Stick Award: Awarded to the top player of the Czechoslovak Elite league, and the top player of the Czech Republic, respectively. 1987, '89, '90, '97, '98
- Five-time winner of the Czechoslovak First League Best Goaltender: 1986-90
- Czech Hockey Player of the 20th Century
Continuing his incredible play in net, Hasek was a three-time Silver Medal winner at the 1982, '83, and '85 World Junior Hockey Championships—while being awarded WJC Best Goaltender in '82 Games.
Capturing four medals in the World Championships, Hasek was again awarded the Best Goaltender award in 1985 and '87.
Perhaps the most memorable moments in Hasek's career happened during the 1998 Olympic Winter games in Nagano, Japan. "The Dominator" led the Czech National team, allowing just six total goals, while being named the Olympic Games Best Goaltender.
It wasn't until after the 1989 Velvet Revolution when Czechoslovakia opened its doors to immigration and overthrew the Communist government that Hasek made his way to the United States.
Hasek stayed in Chicago for his first two NHL seasons—eight years after he was drafted. He posted a 20-11-1 record with the IHL Indianapolis Ice, and also played the role of back-up to the Vezina, Calder Memorial, and William M. Jennings winner, Ed Belfour with the NHL Blackhawks.
Hasek watched the Blackhawks win the Presidents Cup during the 1990-91 season with a 49-23-8 record in the Norris Division. The following year Chicago headed to the Stanley Cup Finals, but were swept in four-straight by the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The best years for Hasek were undoubtedly in Buffalo, where he played his next nine seasons. Hasek was traded to the Sabres on Aug. 7, 1992 in exchange for Stephane Beauregard and future considerations (Eric Daze). Hasek split time between the pipes with Tom Draper, and future Hall of Fame goalie, Grant Fuhr.
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The Buffalo Sabres finished fourth in the NHL Adams Division during their 1992-93 campaign. Dominik Hasek picked up his first career postseason victory on Apr. 24, 1993 against the Boston Bruins—allowing one goal on 24 shots on net in Game Four.
The Sabres bounced the Black and Gold in the Division semi-finals in four-straight before being swept by the Montreal Canadiens in the Division Finals.
During the 1993-94 season, the Buffalo Sabres finished fourth in the Northeast Division before losing in the Quarterfinals to the New Jersey Devils, 4-3. Hasek posted a 3-4 record with two shutouts, a .950 save-percentage, and led all playoff goalies with a 1.61 goals-against average in 484 minutes.
No.39 played in 58 games with a 30-20-6 record, while leading the league with a 1.95 goals-against, .930 save-percentage, and seven shutouts. Hasek, at age 29, also won his first-of-six Vezina Trophies, first-of-three William M. Jennings Award, was selected as First Team All-Star, and was the Hart Memorial runner-up.
Due to a lockout, the 1994-95 NHL season was shortened to just 48 games. The NHL implemented a few new rules to the league. The Boston Bruins were playing in their final season in the Boston Garden, and Dominik Hasek continued on with his amazing, and somewhat unorthodox style of play.
Buffalo once again finished fourth in the Northeast Division, while losing once again in the first round of the playoffs—4-1 versus the Philadelphia Flyers. “The Dominator” posted a 19-14-7 record in ‘95, leading the NHL once again in GAA with 2.11, a .930 save-percentage, and five shutouts (tied with Ed Belfour).
Hasek won his second-straight Vezina Trophy, First team All-Star, and was a Hart memorial candidate.
Finishing fifth in the Northeast Division, Hasek and the Sabres failed to reach the playoff in the 1995-96 season. A pivotal reason for missing the postseason had to do with trading away one of their most prolific offensive players. Alexander Mogilny was shipped to the Vancouver Canucks, leaving Sabres’ center Pat Lafontaine to run the one-man-show.
Over the next two seasons, from 1996-98, Hasek continued to carry the slightly above-average Sabres into the playoffs, while having historical back-to-back seasons. Buffalo finished first in the Northeast Division in 1996-97 (third overall), but lost 4-1 in the Conference Semifinals to the Philadelphia Flyers.
Although the Sabres were bounced from the playoffs in the first two rounds, Hasek officially etched his name as the league's most dominating and feared goalie—as if he hadn't already—while solidifying himself as an all-time great.
In the 1997-98 season Hasek also set a franchise record with 13 shutouts, while playing in a career-high 72 games. In the month of December, The Dominator tied an all-time record for most shutouts in a month, with six.
Hasek and the Sabres headed to the Stanley Cup Finals the following year for the first time since the 1974-75 season. Hasek ended the regular season leading the NHL in save percentage for the sixth consecutive time with his career-high .937.
The seventh ranked Sabres would end up losing to the Dallas Stars 4-2, but Hasek 's individual numbers throughout the playoffs were astounding as usual. In 19 playoff games Hasek posted a 13-6 record, two shutouts, a 1.77 goals-against average, and led all goalies with a .939 save percentage.
Hasek's season was by shorted forty games due to a groin injury sustained during a game versus the Blackhawks in October. The future Hall of Fame goalie was back in time for the playoffs, but Buffalo was once again knocked out by the Flyers, 4-1.
During his final season with Buffalo in 2000-01 Hasek went out with a bang by collecting his sixth Vezina Trophy—a Modern Era record—and winning his second William M. Jennings Trophy. The Sabres beat the Flyers in six in the first round of the playoffs, but would lose to Mario Lemieux and the Pittsburgh Penguins in seven.
DETROIT RED WINGS & OTTAWA SENATORS
Before the start of the 2001-02 season, Hasek was traded to the Detroit Red Wings, where he would play in four of his last five seasons. The Dominator helped lead the Wings to a league-best 116 points, while posting a career-high 41 wins with just 15 losses.
Hasek won his first Stanley Cup during his first season in Detroit, a 4-1 triumph over the Carolina Hurricanes. Defenseman Niklas Lidstrom took home the Conn Smythe honors, but No.39's numbers were staggering throughout the postseason.
He led all goaltenders with 1,455 minutes in 23 games played, 16 playoff victories, and six shutouts. Top it all off with a 1.85 goals-against average, and a .920 save-percentage.
After his first (brief) retirement from the 2002-03 NHL season, Hasek returned to Detroit for his second stint with the team the following year. Sidelined with a groin injury, Hasek appeared in just 14 games in the 2003-04 season. Unselfishly, Hasek refused almost half of his $6-million contract that season, and did not accept any pay since Jan. 9, 2003.
"He just felt that he wasn't doing what he really had set out to do, which is to play hockey, and play at a high level," General Manager Ken Holland said. "At that time, he told me that he did not want to receive any further salary until he was ready to play."
After the injury-plagued season, Hasek’s contract expired, and he signed with the Ottawa Senators on Jul. 6, 2004. Hasek reached a milestone that year by collecting his 300th career win against the Boston Bruins–a 5-1 victory on Oct. 15, 2005.
After the Senators were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs, Hasek was released in the off-season, despite his willingness to play for a discounted $500,000.
".. I've had discussions with his agent, Rich Winter, and (Hasek) wants to come back," said Senators GM John Muckler.
Hasek once again returned to Detroit for the 2006-07 season, signing a one-year contract worth $750,000. No.39 and the Red Wings finished the season with 113-points and as the No.1 seed in the Western Conference. Hasek played in 58 games, while posting a 38-11-6 record with eight shutouts, 2.14 goals-against average, and a .913 save-percentage.
Hasek played in all 18 playoff games for the Wing, compiling a 10-8 record with a 1.78 goals-against average, and .923 save percentage. Detroit lost 4-2 in the Western Conference Finals against the eventual Stanley Cup winners, the Anaheim Ducks.
After contemplating retirement, Dominik Hasek re-signed with the Red Wings on Jul. 5, 2007 to another one-year contract. The contract was reportedly worth two million dollars with an additional two million in bonuses—this after Hasek turned down the initial five million dollar offer in order to clear some needed cap space for the rest of the squad.
Hasek played his final 41 games in 2007-08, collecting his second Stanley Cup, and officially passing the torch to Chris Osgood.
Throughout his 16 seasons in the NHL, Dominik Hasek was clearly the best player at his position.
Just as Patrick Roy popularized the "butterfly style" of goaltending, Hasek’s more unorthodox "flopper style" was equally as successful. His unparalleled off-season workout regimen allowed him to be one of the most flexible and dexterous net minders we have ever seen.
To add to his unusual style of play, The Dominator would usually cover-up the puck with his blocker rather than his trapper (glove). And while other goalies were getting funky with abstract designs on their goalie helmets, Hasek opted for a simple helmet and cage.
While other all-time greats—Martin Brodeur and Patrick Roy—started their NHL careers at the ages of 19 respectively, Hasek began his at 26. During that time, instead of dominating in the NHL, Hasek had solidified himself amongst the international best.
With his great International career, World and Junior World Championships, Olympic Games medals and honors, and his long illustrious NHL impact, Dominik “The Dominator” Hasek is the greatest goalie of all-time.
This article was originally published on Examiner.com
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