Dominik Hasek

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Buffalo Sabres Goaltender

The August 7, 1992 trade in which the Buffalo Sabres acquired Dominik Hasek from the Chicago Blackhawks for Stephane Beauregard and a fourth-round draft choice raised few eyebrows at the time. Subsequent events, of course, established this transaction as one of the greatest heists in National Hockey League history, as Hasek established himself as the premeir netminder of his generation and left a legacy of personal achievement unmatched in league annals.

An injury to Sabres starting goaltender Grant Fuhr early in the 1993-94 season propelled Hasek into the spotlight, and Dominik’s dazzling play garnered him the first of six Vezina Trophies, awarded to the NHL’s top goaltender. That season Hasek became the first European-trained goalie to lead the NHL in goals-against average, and posted the NHL’s first goals-against average below 2.00 since Bernie Parent in 1973-74. Hasek put the exclamation point on that campaign with a clutch performance for the ages, a 72-save shutout in game six of the Eastern Conference quarter-finals against the New Jersey Devils, a game won by the Sabres in the fourth overtime period.

The balance of Hasek’s career with the Sabres produced awards and accolades too numerous to list. Dominik was customarily among the league leaders in wins, shutouts, goals-against average and save percentage, and on several occasions led the league in one or more of those categories. Most significantly, he inspired confidence in his teammates, a gritty collection who played off his outstanding play and consistently found a way to win, to the point of championship contention. His value to the Buffalo squad was recognized in 1996-97 with the awarding of the Hart Trophy, given annually to the league’s most valuable player. Hasek was the first goaltender since Jacques Plante in 1962 to win the award, and he repeated the feat the following season as he led the Sabres to the Eastern Conference finals against Washington. In 1998-99, the gallant Sabres and their brilliant backstop advanced to within two victories of a Stanley Cup Championship, a goal Hasek finally achieved with the Detroit Red Wings in 2002. That Stanley Cup ring joins a 1998 Olympic gold medal in the Hasek trophy case; he is the only NHL goalie to own both. Hasek seized Olympic gold and glory for his Czech team by shutting out the NHL’s best snipers in a thrilling shootout in the deciding contest.

The trophies and accomplishments (individual and team) do not, of course, tell the complete story of Hasek. Only the highlight reel can complete the picture. Hasek was almost certainly the most unorthodox and acrobatic goalie ever to play his trade. Buffalo fans were indeed fortunate to witness the Dominator’s exploits, and tonight raise their voices once again with his enshrinement in the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame.