A Dominating Career… Priceless

My job here at TendersLounge is not to break news (I can’t compete with ESPN for that) but to comment on how it affects the world of goalies. Today the goalie world loses one of the best there’s ever been (I’m not eulogizing him, he is still alive!) as Dominik Hasek has retired from the NHL.

He is the only goalie to win the league MVP award twice. He has six Vezina trophies. He’s won the Stanley Cup twice. He was one half of the most infamous goal in recent NHL history and part of one of the most famous games in recent Olympic history. He finished his career with the highest save percentage ever.

All of those accomplishments might not even cover his biggest accomplishment and that was changing the way the position was played. You may not have been able to call it a style, but he changed the game none-the-less. Call it the ‘Hasek style of goaltending’. Call it the “stop-the-puck-with-any-part-of-your-body style”. Or as MasterCard so eloquently put it years ago, “having a slinky for a spine… priceless”.

Most (all?) of the hockey world will remember the Stanley Cup winning goal scored on Hasek by Brett Hull with his foot in the crease. Hasek had recently reclaimed his place in the hearts of Buffalo sports fans after a year-long feud with coach Ted Nolan, and in 1999 won his third consecutive Vezina (fifth overall) and led the 7th seeded Sabres to the Cup final against the President Cup winners, the Dallas Stars. In the third overtime of game six, Hull banged in a loose puck with his skate clearly in the crease. The goal was allowed to stand and the Stars won the Cup despite the rule of the time that called for goals to be waived off when an offensive player has a skate in the crease. Hasek’s analysis of the video replay confirming the goal was concise but clear: “the video goal judge must have been in the bathroom”.

Personally, my lasting memory of Hasek will always be his dominance of the 1998 Olympics in Nagano. It was the first Olympic tournament to include NHLers so every Canadian was expecting a return to Olympic glory. Wayne Gretzky was making his Olympic debut so how could Canada not win? Hasek, that’s how. He gave up six goals in the entire tournament, only two of which came in the medal round. There was simply no way for the Czechs to be beaten the way Hasek shut down every major NHL star. Every Canadian hockey fan remembers Gretzky sitting on the bench, overlooked as five other Canadian players were chosen for the shootout of the semi-finals. Ray Bourque over Gretzky in a shootout? Would Gretzky have scored on Hasek? Maybe. Or maybe Gretzky was past his prime and Hasek was too much in the middle of his. Regardless, the image of Hasek celebrating after making the last stop will remain etched in my memory.

After collecting a staggering amount of hardware over the course of his career, Hasek will have his name engraved two more times this summer: one more time on the Stanley Cup and also on the Jennings Trophy, both of which he won and shared with Chris Osgood. And then it’s on to the Hockey Hall of Fame on the first available ballot.

Career wins… 389. Stanley Cups… two. Vezina Trophies… six. Hart Trophies… two. Shutouts… 81. Olympic Gold Medals… one. Career Save Percentage… .922.

A career that changed the look and style of goaltending forever… Priceless.

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