Dominik Hasek To Watch #39 Rise To Rafters In Buffalo


Perhaps you’ve heard the term late-bloomer. In very few instances has it applied to anyone with more natural talent than former Buffalo Sabres goaltender Dominik Hasek. Well, the skills were always there, of course. It just took a while for him to get the chance to showcase them. As a testament to that talent, Hasek will have the honor of seeing his #39 retired in a ceremony Tuesday night at the First Niagara Center.

Hasek was drafted 199th overall by the Chicago Blackhawks in 1983, but didn’t start his first NHL game until 1990, when he earned a tie against the Hartford Whalers.

In Chicago he was stuck behind future NHL Hall of Famer Eddie “The Eagle” Belfour whom he would, ironically, face off against years later in the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals when Belfour’s Dallas Stars took on Hasek’s Sabres.

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With The Eagle entrenched in the Blackhawks’ net, Chicago opted to make what ended up being one of the more lopsided trades in NHL history. In it, Hasek was sent to the Sabres for backup backstop Stephane Beauregard and, ultimately, Eric Daze.

After a short stint behind another future NHL Hall of Famer, the aging former Edmonton Oilers legend Grant Fuhr, Hasek finally got his chance to shine in Buffalo’s crease.

And shine he did.

Hasek’s style in net has been described with help from a wide variety of adjectives over the years but, unless you’ve seen it, it’s almost impossible to relate. Dominik Hasek was an amoeba. He was Plastic Man. He flopped, he fluttered, he dropped; he did everything and anything that the human body allows in order to stop a puck from crossing the goal line behind him.

It almost hurt just to watch him.

During a good portion of his tenure in the Queen City the Sabres couldn’t score, and Hasek refused to be scored upon. He was often a very entertaining one-man show.

In 1999 Dominik Hasek led the Sabres to the Stanley Cup Finals against the aforementioned Eddie Belfour and his Dallas Stars. He may have even secured the city of Buffalo’s first NHL Championship, if Stars’ forward Brett Hull wasn’t awarded the very questionable goal he scored in triple overtime of Game 6, with his skate clearly in the crease.

In 2001 Hasek, edging into his later 30’s, was dealt to the Detroit Red Wings. Once in Motown, he went on to win a pair of Stanley Cups.

However, before leaving Buffalo he secured himself six Vezina and two Hart trophies. For nearly a full decade he treated countless scores of Sabres fans to a manner of dynamic puck-stopping that is likely not be duplicated at any time in the near future.

To successfully mimic Hasek’s style would likely be somewhat akin to successfully scooping a glass of unsalted water from the Atlantic Ocean.

It was reactive, and it was unteachable. But it was also great fun to watch. And it is also the reason that in less than 24 hours from now Dominik Hasek’s # 39 will permanently leave Sabres circulation to rightfully take its place next to Tim Horton, Danny Gare, Pat LaFontaine and the legendary French Connection forevermore .

Congrats to you, Dominik. You’ve earned it.

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