Hasek's brilliant career comes to close
“I’m leaving this great game of hockey today with the Stanley Cup and Jennings Trophy, and it’s nice,” Hasek said. “But most importantly, I’m leaving this game feeling very, very happy, because of the memories, and because of the friendships I have made with all of you.”
The hall-of-fame bound goaltender’s press conference was cheerful and star-studded, with many of his teammates on hand to honor him. Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch and general manager Ken Holland sat beside Hasek, with his wife Alena, son Michal and daughter Dominika watching from the front row.
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“In the end, I have few words for the people who are closest to me - my family,” Hasek said. “We all go home after the games, we are all fathers and husbands, and I can tell you that I am so thankful to have a family I love as much as I do, and of which I am so proud.”
Hasek spent 16 seasons in the NHL, and he made them count. In 735 career games, he won 389 times, putting him 10th on the all-time wins list. He posted 81 career shutouts (tied for sixth all-time) and carried a career 2.20 goals against average. He also ranks 10th all-time in postseason victories.
The Dominator said he was glad he decided to come back this season, which ultimately ended with a Stanley Cup title.
“I’m very, very happy on my decision I made last year,” Hasek said. “It took me a few weeks, talk to some people, especially at home with my wife and my decision to come back because, the reason was simple, because we never won last year, and also because Michal had one more year in high school, and his goal was to go to college in the United States, so we made this decision to come back, and try to do our best, and that’s what happened.”
Today, I’m feeling very happy, I don’t have any regrets,” he continued. “And I’m very happy just to be around you and see many of my teammates here, and all of you … I’m feeling very happy.”
His collection of awards and accolades speak for themselves. Hasek was named to the NHL all-rookie team in 1992. He won the William M. Jennings Trophy for fewest goals against three times (1994, 2001, 2008), the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goaltender six times (1994, 1995, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001), and the Lester B. Pearson award as the NHLPA’s top player two times (1997, 1998). He was named to the NHL’s first all-star team six times (1994, 1995, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001), and captured the gold medal in the 1998 Olympics with the Czech Republic.
Most important, however, were his two Hart Memorial trophies, and his two Stanley Cups. Hasek is the only goaltender to win the prestigious league MVP title twice, and the first since Jacques Plante to win the Hart trophy. The Dominator won two Stanley Cups in his four years with the Red Wings.
Hasek, 43, played in 41 games with the Red Wings this season, compiling a 27-10-3 record with a 2.04 goals against average, .902 save percentage and five shutouts.
The man who was said to have a Slinky for a spine in television commercials said that physically, he’s still able to play, but the mental drive isn’t where it used to be.
“Physically, I have to tell you, I’m feeling great,” Hasek said. “I feel as well as I felt ever, but it’s all about the patience, and it’s about motivation. I’m glad that I can make my decision and I just don’t feel today that I’m ready to compete on the highest level.
“Not because of the physical things, but because I need motivation every day, to go to practice, to get ready for the season … I don’t want to disappoint anybody, I don’t want to disappoint myself, but I don’t want to disappoint the people that helped me, and I think in this case, I don’t feel that way it’s better to say goodbye.”
The Dominator was drafted in the 10th round by the Chicago Blackhawks in 1983, where he played 25 games in two seasons. He was traded to Buffalo in 1992, for Stephane Beauregard and Buffalo’s fourth round pick in 1993.
Soon after, Hasek’s career took off. In the 1993-94 season, his first as a starting NHL netminder, he played in 58 games, compiling a 30-20-6 record.
Hasek’s career blossomed three seasons later, where he posted an impressive 37-20-10, and captured his first Hart and Pearson trophies, honors voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association and the NHL Players Association, respectively.
He continued his goaltending dominance the next season, finishing with a 33-23-13 record, and leading the Sabres to the Eastern Conference final, their longest playoff run since 1975. Along the way, Hasek successfully defended his league MVP trophies.
In 1998, he led his country to a gold medal. In the first Olympic Games to allow NHL players, he backstopped the Czech Republic to a 5-1 record, and shut-out Russia to capture the first gold medal in the country’s history.
Hasek came to the Red Wings for the 2001-02 season to do one thing – win the Stanley Cup. He did just that, accumulating a dominant 41-15-8 record in the regular-season, then leading the charge in the playoffs with a 16-7 record and six shutouts.
He returned to Hockeytown after a season with the Ottawa Senators in 2005-06, and helped carry the Red Wings to the Western Conference final last spring, and this season, another Stanley Cup championship.