The Dominator: The Best Contortionist I Ever Saw Play Goal

domThe human slinky that had no backbone, otherwise known as Dominik Hasek

When I moved to Buffalo, New York in 1998, the first thing I wanted to do was see a Buffalo Sabres game at then Marine Midland Arena, but more I wanted to see a goaltender that was doing the impossible. The Sabres went on to lose the game 2-0 with Dominik having close to 50 saves. But that was the Dominator’s career with the Sabres regrettably. He would stand on his head, literally, and the Sabres would hope to win 1-0 or 2-1.

Dominik Hasek started his playing career with the Chicago Blackhawks but would see limited playing time because of another future Hall of Famer Ed Belfour. His goaltending coach with the Blackhawks was the Russian goaltending superstar Vladislav Tretiak, who is considered to be one of the greatest goaltenders in the history of the sport of ice hockey. Only two years later he was traded to the Buffalo Sabres for goaltender Stephane Beauregard and future considerations, which later became a draft pick used to obtain Eric Daze. Quite a steal for the Sabres considering what Hasek was able to accomplish in his nine years with the club. While with the Buffalo Sabres, Hasek was a five time all-star as well as a six time Vezina Trophy winner for the league’s top goaltender. His only regret was not being able to hoist the Stanley Cup for a city that desperately coveted a Championship. Hasek would eventually get his Cup as a member of the Detroit Red Wings in 2002 and another in 2008.

This past Tuesday the Buffalo Sabres retired Hasek’s number 39 to the rafters of First Niagara Center. His name now hangs in the rafters with the likes of Gilbert Perreault, the late Rick Martin, Rene Robert, the late Tim Horton, Danny Gare and Pat LaFontaine. I got my bargain ticket off of stubhub for only 30 dollars, and went to the game with my brother in law Rob. Unfortunately the Sabres are in the middle of their biggest losing streak of the season and haven’t won in 2015 yet. The game finally sold out the day of the ceremony, but there was still some seats empty throughout the arena. The proceedings only lasted a quick 20 minutes. I was also at the Danny Gare ceremony a couple years back and it seemed to last longer than this one. Also the Gare ceremony had former teammates come back to celebrate. Not a single teammate was there to honor Hasek. The only Sabres present besides the players waiting to play the game were Danny Gare and Rene Robert. The crowd was pretty low key much like the ceremony, the only outburst was when a fan yelled out, “Get out there Dom!” much to the delight of the 19,000 plus in attendance. The retirement banners they handed out at the game were a very nice collectable that will now hang in my man cave in the basement. Also staff were selling signed pucks, signed hats, and limited edition signed lithographs on behalf of Hasek’s charity Hasek’s Heroes. However I thought the ceremony was very lackluster for one the game’s greatest goaltenders of all time and I wasn’t alone in the sentiment. Former Sabre Matthew Barnaby, who was never a friend to Hasek, was quoted as saying “This is embarrassing. There was no one. There wasn’t a former teammate on the ice. There was no fanfare for that. There was no family there.” This would lead me to believe that either Hasek was such a bastard to play with and nobody wanted to come, or the Buffalo Sabres dropped the ball and never invited anybody. I believe the latter to more accurate.

dom2Hasek standing alone with Gare and Robert holding the banner

I understand it might be hard to get excited during a season when the Sabres are officially rebuilding. To put it in perspective the current goaltender Michal Neuvirth was a kid in the Czech Republic when Hasek won the Gold Medal for their country in 1998. Neuvirth honors Hasek every game by donning a mask featuring a facial profile of Hasek as well as two other in motion saves by the Czech great. Even Neuvirth agrees with me, “If he’s not the best goalie ever, he’s definitely top three.” The restrained ceremony lead into a sober effort by the Sabres who eventually fell to Detroit by the final score of 3-1. I was still glad I was there though and I will cherish my Hasek retirement banner for years to come.

dom3This was the awesome banner I have hanging in my man cave now

– Damian Mikrut

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