Hasek was apparently trying to drum up interest in American minor leagues but couldn’t get a deal done. With the lockout in place and little-to-no National Hockey League interest in his services, the 47 year old is hanging up the skates for good. He had resumed training in hopes of getting picked up, but it was not to be.
“I understand their reasons,” Hasek said. “I am 47 and I haven’t played hockey for the entire season…I have to go on and find new motivation. I would like to do something creative, something completely new. The only thing I know is that it won’t be in hockey. Coaching or working as a manager is not the thing I would like to do.”
Hasek, who has to be considered a Hall of Famer if there ever was one, won the Vezina Trophy six times over the span of eight years and was twice named the NHL’s Most Valuable Player. He is the holder of the highest career save percentage of all-time (0.9223) and sits in seventh place in goals against average (2.202).
Hasek was drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in 1983, going 199th overall in the NHL Entry Draft. He backed up Ed Belfour and made his first NHL start on November 6, 1990. He wore #34 and potted a 1-1 tie against the Hartford Whalers. His goalie coach for the Hawks with the legendary Vladislav Tretiak, who’d been drafted by the Habs the same year as Hasek but wasn’t able to play due to having been blocked by the Soviet government.
Hasek only played in 25 games over two years with the Blackhawks, but the learning experience put him in perfect position for life-changing years in Buffalo. He was sent to the Sabres after the Blackhawks decided to go with the tandem of Belfour and Jimmy Waite. In Buffalo, Hasek backed Tom Draper and Grant Fuhr. He worked his way up to the starting position and won his first Vezina in 1994, also landing as a runner-up to the Hart Trophy. He shared the William M. Jennings Trophy with Fuhr. In 1995, Hasek won another Vezina and was once again a Hart runner-up.
Through the years that followed, Hasek would pile up more accolades and develop more controversies. He once attacked Buffalo Evening News writer Jim Kelley and found himself at the centre of a rule-changing controversy during the 1999 NHL Stanley Cup Finals. In the deciding sixth game of the series (and one of the longest Final games in hockey history), the triple overtime winner went to Dallas’ Brett Hull. One problem: his foot was in the crease when the puck squeaked by Buffalo’s Hasek. ”I don’t understand what the video judge is doing,” said the goalie. “Maybe he was in the bathroom. Maybe he was sleeping. Maybe he doesn’t know the rule.”
In the 1999-2000 season, some say the beginning of the long end took place. Hasek was nagged by a groin injury and missed 40 games. He would reclaim some glory the following season, winning another Vezina and another Jennings, but his time with the Sabres had come to an end. Hasek was off to Detroit. He helped the club win a Stanley Cup, but announced his retirement that summer. After the following season, he came back and put the Red Wings in a tough position with three starting goalies under contract (Hasek, Curtis Joseph and Manny Legace).
Groin injuries still hounded Hasek, however, and he found himself sitting out with the Red Wings – refusing to be paid while he was on the pine and refusing what ultimately added up to $3 million in salary.
Hasek’s contract with the Red Wings expired and he signed a deal with the Ottawa Senators, playing there for a year before returning to the Red Wings in 2006 at the age of 41. He contemplated retirement in 2007 but wound up signing a $2 million contract, below the $5 million he was able to sign. By 2008, he announced his retirement again.
In April of 2009, Hasek signed a one year deal with HC Moeller Pardubice, the club that started it all in his native Czech Republic. The following year, he signed with HC Spartak Moscow.
There will never be another Dominik Hasek. Whether or not this news comes as a surprise to readers is irrelevant to the fact that one of the greatest goalies of all time has officially left the game. In this day and age of arms-crossed cynicism (exemplified by the predictable barrage of “who cares” comments sure to follow this piece), Hasek is a symbol of a bygone era. He dominated like never before and never again, owning a game and playing with honour until the very end.