There is no question behind the fact that at some point next season, barring his ability to land another contract somewhere in the world – Dominik Hasek’s number will be raised to the rafters of the First Niagara Center in a fitting ceremony to a world class goaltender. Despite the tumulous end to his career in Buffalo where he had a hand in the removal of John Muckler and Ted Nolan; and the incident with Jim Kelley – he is without a doubt the best goaltender to ever put pads on for the Buffalo Sabres.
The Blue and Gold Years
From 1992-1996 when he wore blue and gold playing in Memorial Auditorium, Dominik Hasek played in 186 games, , only winning 82 of them. He had two seasons where he posted a .930 save percentage, and had 14 shutouts. He won two Vezinas, a William Jennings, and was a First Team All Star twice. He was named to the NHL All Rookie team in 1992. He was nominated for the Hart Trophy in both 1994 and 1995. He had 12 playoff appearances and four playoff wins, including two playoff shutouts. He made one All Star Game appearance (1996)
The Black and Red Years
Had the team not changed colors, there would be no argument for debate. While wearing red and black however, he played in 305 contest, winning 152 games. 41 of those wins were shutouts, and he boasted his best ever save percentage in black and red at .937. He set a single season record for most games played by a goaltender with 72. He won the Hart Memorial (97 &98), the Lester B. Pearson (97&98), the Vezina (97,98,99, 2001) the William Jennings (2001), was a First Team All Star (97, 98, 99, 01), and appeared in the 97, 98, 99, and 2000 All Star Game. Adding the teams success in the late 90s – he played in 55 playoff games, winning 31 of those games, and making one trip to the Stanley Cup Finals. While with the Sabres he also backstopped the Czech national team to an Olympic Gold Medal in the 1998 Nagano games.
On a related note, the team will be retiring its popular alternate jersey, the one designed for the teams 40th anniversary. While the team only wanted to wear it during the anniversary year, league rules require teams where a third jersey for two seasons. According to IceThetics, a team spokesman has stated that alternate jerseys are done forever, as they have no plans to introduce another one next season.
This team has had more than its share of identity troubles over the years. In the decade-and-a-half between 1995 and 2010, the Sabres wore four completely different uniform sets. Not the way to build a successful brand. (sic)
With that in mind, the team should think long and hard about what color to retire Hasek’s 39 in. The numbers scream for it to be a black and red number, similar to the Championship banners hanging at the other end of the arena that he was a large help in winning. With current owners love (and rightfully so) for the blue and gold jersey, and for aesthetic reasons, the Sabres should hang 39 for all time in Blue and Gold.
Should we act like the black and gold era of Buffalo Sabres hockey never existed, or properly honor the players who wore that snorting goat head sweater in battle each and every night for a decade?