Hasek, Dominik

▪ 1999

      In 1998 Dominik Hasek, "the Dominator," borrowed a page from the comic books and turned in his own performance as the Masked Marvel. The goaltender for the National Hockey League (NHL) Buffalo Sabres won his fourth Vezina Trophy as the league's best netminder and became the first goalie to win consecutive Hart Memorial trophies as the NHL's most valuable player (MVP). These awards complemented the gold medal that Hasek earned in February at the Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan—the first Games to feature NHL players. There he led the surprising Czech Republic team past the favoured American and Canadian squads to the country's first gold in the sport. With his unorthodox style (highlighted by spectacular flopping saves) and lightning-quick reflexes, Hasek proved that he was one of the game's best goalies. The Sabres agreed, rewarding their star netminder with a new three-year, $26 million contract extension that made Hasek the highest-paid goaltender in NHL history.

      Born in Pardubice, Czech., on Jan. 29, 1965, Hasek began playing ice hockey as a child, skating on shoes with blades screwed into the bottom. Incredibly flexible, he quickly became a standout in the net and was named the country's League Player of the Year three times (1987, 1989, and 1990). In 1983 he was selected by the Chicago Blackhawks in the NHL draft, but it was not until after Czechoslovakia's "Velvet Revolution" in 1989 that he left his homeland and joined the team. Following a rookie season (1990-91) largely spent on the bench, Hasek was traded to the Sabres in 1992. Faced with little playing time in Buffalo, he contemplated leaving the league. During the 1993-94 season, however, an injury to a teammate gave Hasek the chance to play regularly. He responded by turning in one of the best performances by an NHL netminder. With a 1.95 goals-against average (GAA)—the lowest GAA posted by a goalie in two decades—Hasek won the first of his four Vezina trophies (1994, 1995, 1997, and 1998) and secured his position as the team's starting goaltender. In 1998 he became the first goalie in 35 years to receive the Hart Memorial Trophy.

      The 1997-98 season began with a shaky start as teammates continued to question Hasek's decision during the previous season's play-offs to remove himself from the lineup because of an injury. Furthermore, fans blamed the goaltender for the departure of the Sabres' popular coach in the off-season. Faced with the turmoil, Hasek struggled in the net as his GAA rose to more than three. In December, however, he returned to form, tying an NHL record for most shutouts in a month (six). He went on to post a 2.09 GAA with 13 shutouts and led the Sabres on an unexpected postseason run, advancing to the Eastern Conference finals. By then, everyone knew who the masked man was.

AMY TIKKANEN

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▪ Czech hockey player
born Jan. 29, 1965, Pardubice, Czech. [now in the Czech Republic]

      Czech ice hockey goaltender known for his unorthodox goaltending style. Hašek was the only goaltender in National Hockey League (NHL) history to win consecutive Hart Trophy awards as most valuable player (1997–98).

      Hašek started playing ice hockey in Pardubice at age six. Remarkably flexible, he developed a goaltending method that consisted of falling to the ice and splaying his limbs to stop many shots that would be out of the reach of most goaltenders. He went on to play for the Czechoslovakian national ice hockey team and won the Czechoslovakian award for goaltender of the year each year between 1986 and 1990. He was honoured as Czechoslovakian player of the year in 1987, 1989, and 1990.

      In 1983 Hašek was selected by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 10th round of the NHL draft, but it was not until after Czechoslovakia's Velvet Revolution (1989) that he left his homeland. In 1990 he made his NHL debut with the Blackhawks but did not receive much playing time, and two years later he was traded to the Buffalo Sabres. In December 1993 he stepped in to replace an injured goaltender and recorded five shutouts. By the season's end he was considered by many to be the best goaltender in the NHL; his 1.95 goals-against average (GAA) was the lowest in the league since the 1973–74 season. Hašek continued to lead the league in GAA, save percentage, and shutouts. Between 1994 and 2001 he earned the Vezina Trophy for best NHL goaltender six times. He won the Hart Trophy in 1997 and 1998. Hašek led the Czech national team to the gold medal at the 1998 Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan, recording a 0.97 GAA rating. In 2001 he was traded to the Detroit Red Wings and led them to a Stanley Cup championship in 2002.

      Hašek retired soon after, but he came back to the Red Wings after only one season away from professional hockey. An injury, however, prevented him from playing for much of the 2003–04 season. After a labour dispute led to the cancellation of the 2004–05 season, Hašek signed a one-year contract with the Ottawa Senators for the 2005–06 season. He made a solid start with the Senators but was injured at the 2006 Olympics in Turin, Italy, and was forced to sit out the remainder of the Games and the NHL season. When Ottawa failed to re-sign him, Hašek returned to Detroit for a third stint with the Red Wings in 2006. In 2007–08 he split goaltending duties during the regular season but played in only four play-off games during Detroit's run to another Stanley Cup title. Several days after winning the Stanley Cup, Hašek retired.

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Universalium. 2010.

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