Czech goalie Dominik Hašek retires

Dominik Hašek, photo: CTK

Dominik Hašek - goaltender for the Detroit Red Wings and one of the best goalies in the history of the NHL – announced on Monday he was retiring from hockey. Although it is not the first time Hašek has announced giving up the game, at 43 this is likely to be his last. Over 16 years Hašek won the Stanley Cup twice as well as gathered countless personal awards including the NHL’s Hart Trophy for most valuable player in the playoffs (twice) and the Vezina for best goalie during the regular season (six times). He also led the Czech Republic to Olympic Gold at Nagano ‘98, the first time professional players took part. A phenomenal career.

Dominik Hašek,  photo: CTK
Dominik Hašek has long been nicknamed the Dominator and for very good reason: for 16 years the goalie topped the NHL as one of the world’s best, alongside goalies like Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur. Hašek began in the NHL in 1990 with the Chicago Blackhawks but it was nine seasons at Buffalo where he made his mark: fast, limber, and unorthodox, introducing a floppy style of goaltending that led to quips his spine was “a slinky toy”.

Not a traditional style of play, but certainly great drama: the keeper often blocked impossible shots that by rights should have found the back of the net. Pavel Bárta is a respected Czech hockey historian and journalist:

In 1999, Hašek led Buffalo to the Stanley Cup Finals but his team lost in six games to the Dallas Stars led by Brett Hull. In 2001, he chose to leave for the Detroit Red Wings – and in 2002 he at last won the Cup. This year, Detroit won again – although with Hašek uncharacteristically on the bench – replaced by an energised Chris Osgood with whom he shared top spot. That experience may have added to his decision to finally hang up the skates, although many, including Pavel Bárta, were certain the keeper would play for one more year. Pavel Bárta again:

Dominik Hašek,  photo: CTK
“I thought the opposite, I thought that if he won the Stanley Cup as a back-up goalie that he wouldn’t be satisfied and that he would want to continue. But it appears that he is serious about retirement.”

This year’s Stanley Cup is admittedly a high point on which to retire. The goalie has said he and his family, with the exception of his son who will be studying in the US, will return to the Czech Republic where the Dominator will attend to his sports clothing business. Meanwhile, what will he be most admired for here? For many, the peak will always be Nagano, Japan, where the Dominator backstopped the Czechs to historic Gold. The 10th anniversary of that famous tournament was marked this spring.

“It was the biggest moment in Czech hockey history: that was a great thing. There were signs of ‘Hašek for President!’ and so on. He was the greatest hero of that tournament and greatest hero of the team!”