Last year, the Buffalo Sabres announced their plan to retire Dominik Hasek‘s #39 jersey, rendering it unwearable by any current or future player in the organization. To the delight of all in Western New York, and some just over the border in Niagara, “The Dominator” will join six other Sabres legends — Gilbert Perreault (#11), Rick Martin (#7), Rene Robert (#14), Tim Horton (#2), Danny Gare (#18) and Pat LaFontaine (#16).
The seventh player in Sabres history to have his number raised to the rafters, Hasek was on-hand for the ceremony prior to the game last night against another of his former teams, the Detroit Red Wings.
Sabres Retire Hasek’s No. 39
He is well remembered most notably for his unique, rather unorthodox goaltending style. Fans will remember his ability to make saves he had no business making, standing on his head, sometimes almost literally, in every single outing. Whispers around Buffalo, Detroit, Ottawa, and Chicago – the four teams Hasek suited-up for during his NHL career – have hinted that perhaps he never allowed a single goal during practice.
The Sabres acquired Hasek from the Chicago Blackhawks on Aug. 7, 1992. He played 491 games in Buffalo, treating fans to many wins while setting loads of franchise records. In those 491 appearances, he recorded 234 wins, 55 shutouts, and a 2.22 goals against average (GAA). Statistically, his best season wearing the blue and gold was in 1998-99, when he set a team record of 13 shutouts, a career-best 1.87 GAA, and .937 save percentage.
After leaving Buffalo, Hasek went on to play for the Detroit Red Wings, winning Lord Stanley’s Cup in 2002, becoming the first European goalie to win one of sports’ greatest prizes. He would capture another Cup with Detroit in 2008 at the age of 43, and retire from the NHL soon after.
Hasek spent the last two seasons of his career in Europe playing for his youth team HC Pardubice – which retired his #9 last year – as well as the KHL’s Spartak Moscow.
On the international stage, Hasek played under the Czech flag in three Olympic tournaments ( 1998, 2002 and 2006), winning gold in 1998 and bronze in 2006. He also participated in five world championships in his illustrious career, winning three bronze medals and one silver.
As for individual NHL accolades, he won two Hart trophies (1997,1998), six Vezina trophies (1994, 1995, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001), two Pearson trophies (1997, 1998), and two Jennings trophies (1994, 2001).
The ceremony last night in Buffalo to retire his #39 began with Hasek stepping up to the podium at center ice. The Dominator thanked the Sabres organization, the city of Buffalo, and the fans. “I don’t think I will ever get tired hearing the sound of Sabres fans,” he said. “I’m so lucky I have spent most of my career playing in this organization.”
He mentioned Mike Peca, Richard Smehlik and Pat LaFontaine as the ceremony went on, and also said he will always have a special bond with the other six Sabres in the so-called “Rafter club.” Both ends of the rink had Hasek’s #39 painted behind the nets, illuminated by a spotlight. Quite a few Hasek jerseys could be spotted in the stands.
As soon as the #39 banner was carried on to the ice by Sabres legends Gare and Robert, the fans began chanting ”No goal! No goal!” which was probably the most commonly heard refrain back in the day when Hasek still played. The reference, of course, is to Brett Hull’s controversial triple overtime goal which defeated the Sabres in the 1999 Stanley Cup Final. As the banner was being raised, Sabres fans started chanting “Let’s go Buffalo!”
It was great to see some of the Detroit players out there on the bench, paying their respects to the great goalie. Wings netminder, and fellow Czech native, Petr Mrazek couldn’t resist leaving the bench and skating toward Hasek to shake his hand as he went to greet Sabres players before the anthems were played.
All told, it was a fitting tribute for one of the greatest netminders of all-time, as his #39 has now been immortalized in Buffalo for eternity.
To read Hasek’s Hockey Hall of Fame induction profile, click here.
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