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  • Writer's pictureDerek Ochej

The Dominator

The most dominant goaltender of the 1990s, and arguably one of the best goaltenders of all-time, Dominik Hasek gets a solo post dedicated to his career. A player who redefined the way the position is played, with an emphasis on athleticism and competitiveness, Hasek stands as a stark contrast to many goaltenders today who play the position with a textbook approach to angles and letting the puck hit them as opposed to them getting in the way of the puck.

Card 335 - Dominik Hasek

Goaltender Hasek was drafted 199th overall by Chicago in the 1983 draft. He would play seven seasons for Pardubice in his native Czechoslovakia, winning top goalie honours five years in a row and top player three times during those seven years. Hasek would also build a reputation internationally during this time, earning best goalie at the World Championships twice and being named a tournament all-star three times. His efforts in net help the Czechs earn one silver and three bronze medals between 1983 and 1990.

Hasek came to North America in time for the 1990-91 season, playing primarily with Indianapolis in the IHL and earning a first-team all-star selection while getting into five games with the Blackhawks, winning three. 1991-92 saw him elevated to the role of back up to Hawks sophomore goalie Ed Belfour, with Hasek winning 10 of 20 games and being named to the all-rookie team.

The Blackhawks in the early 1990s had a problem that most franchises would have been envious of - too many good, young goalies. Belfour and Hasek had been named to back-to-back all-rookie teams, and the Hawks also had top-prospect Jimmy Waite ready for NHL duty. This glut was particularly troublesome since 1992 would see an expansion draft, with Ottawa and Tampa Bay joining the NHL. Even under the old expansion draft rules, where the Hawks could protect two goalies, this still left the chance they would lose a goalie for nothing. The Hawks got creative, and in order to meet the requirements to expose a goalie with at least one game of NHL experience, played tender Ray Leblanc, previously on the US National Team, in one game during the 1991-92 season. Following the expansion draft (the Hawks lost forwards Mike Peluso and Dan Vincelette), Hasek was traded to Buffalo for fellow goalie Stephane Beauregard and a fourth round draft pick (used to select Eric Daze).

Hasek’s first season in Buffalo saw him share the crease with Daren Puppa and Grant Fuhr, winning 11 of 28 games. In 1993-94 he took over the starter’s role and over the next eight seasons embarked on the greatest stretch of goaltending in modern NHL history. During this time Hasek:

  • Won two Hart Trophies (back-to-back no less) and finished as finalist three times. Hasek is the only NHL goalie to win two Harts and was the first goalie to win since Jacques Plante in 1962;

  • Won two Pearson awards;

  • Won six Vezinas;

  • Won two Jennings;

  • Led the league in save percentage from 1994 to 1999;

  • Led the league in goals against average twice;

  • Led the league in shutouts four times, with his 13 shutouts in 1997-98 only two behind Tony Esposito’s modern-day record; and

  • Won 30+ games five times.

The Dominator’s heroics led the Sabres to the 1998 Conference Finals and the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals, the franchise’s first Cup Finals appearance since 1975. The Sabres would lose to Dallas in controversial fashion in triple overtime of Game 6.

In July 2001 the rebuilding Sabres granted Hasek’s request for a trade and he was sent to Detroit for a first round draft pick and Slava Kozlov. His first season in Detroit he won 41 games, both a career-high and the league leading mark. Hasek would win his first Stanley Cup that season, winning all 16 games for the Wings and recording six shutouts, at that time a playoff record. Following his Cup triumph Hasek retired, but returned in the 2003-04 season with Detroit. He would play in only 14 games, winning eight, before missing the balance of the season with a groin injury.

Hasek signed with Ottawa for the 2004 season, with his debut delayed one year due to the lockout in 2004-05. He would win 28 games in the 2005-06 season before the league shut down for the 2006 Olympics. While representing the Czech Republic in Italy, Hasek suffered an injury and missed the rest of the NHL season.

In 2006 he signed back with Detroit, winning 38 games in the 2006-07 season, finishing fifth in Vezina voting. During the 2007-08 season he split games with Chris Osgood, winning 27 games and sharing the Jennings Trophy. Hasek took a back seat in the playoffs, playing in only four games, but that was enough for him to earn his second Stanley Cup. Although these would be his last NHL games, Hasek returned in 2009-10 at the age of 45 to play in the Czech Republic, where he would win best goalie and player of the year awards. Hasek played a final pro season in the KHL, retiring after the 2010-11 season.

In 16 NHL seasons, Hasek played in 735 games, posting a 389-223-95 record, .922 save percentage and 2.20 goals against average. He ranks 15th all-time in wins, first in career save percentage, seventh in career goals against average and sixth all-time in shutouts (81). Hasek is a member of the IIHF Hall of Fame, Hockey Hall of Fame and Czech Hockey Hall of Fame. In 1998 he won Olympic Gold and was named the tournament’s best goalie.

In retirement he kept a low-profile, running various businesses and charities, until his recent comments regarding Vladimir Putin, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the role of Russian hockey players in promoting Putin’s agenda.

YouTube clip: video from being named one of NHL’s top 100 players of all-time.

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