The return of Dominik Hasek? Czech fans can only speculate for now...

Hasek: the man behind the mask, photo: Dan4th Nicholas, CC BY-SA 2.0

Just one year after he hung up his goalie skates Czech star goaltender Dominik Hasek may soon be back in the NHL. There have been reports in the US press that the 38-year-old legend and 1998 Olympic gold medal winner has been talking to the Detroit Red Wings, with whom he won the Stanley Cup in his last season. Is Hasek still hungry for another shot at sport's oldest tournament trophy? Well, that's still a matter of speculation. But one thing is certain: a Hasek comeback would be welcomed by a great many fans, not least those in the Czech Republic. For some perspective on a possible return by the legend here's Radio Prague's biggest hockey fan Jan Velinger.

Dominik Hasek, photo: Dan4th Nicholas, CC BY-SA 2.0
"Thank you Pavla. Well, understandably the news that Dominik Hasek could be coming back to North America's NHL, or National Hockey League, is stunning. Point blank. And while it's just speculation for now, you can bet that over the coming days arm-chair pundits and pub-goers throughout the Czech Republic will mull over the possibilities with relish. A Hasek return? It will probably push aside even public finance reform we've been hearing so much about!"

Is such a step so unusual, though, for a world-class athlete? You have people like Michael Jordan...

"Fair enough. Different sport though. The hard-hitting world of ice hockey is unique, and usually when players go there, they stay gone. Sure, there are some who play forever which basically means around forty. A notable present-day exception would be forward Mario Lemieux. But he never left willingly. He was forced into early retirement in the 90s because of his fight with Hodgkin's disease and persisting back problems. And his return, especially return to top form, was exceptional..."

When Dominik Hasek called it a day...

"Well, Czech fans were pretty convinced. By his resoluteness certainly. There was also general consensus it was a good idea to retire on a high note. He had, after all, finally won the Stanley Cup, the only important prize to have eluded him throughout his career."

Is it a likely reality, Hasek's return? And what about the Czech reaction?

"Impossible, of course, to say. Both Detroit Red Wings management and Dominik Hasek have agreed to an embargo on information for now. It will be a shot heard round the world though, if Hasek tips his hat. As far as Czech reaction is concerned? That is a curious one: though for many Hasek is still something of a demi-god for his Olympic run, intimidating stance, or original 'floppy style' goaltending, his reputation has been tarnished in recent months because of an incident in which he gave another player a concussion during a game of in-line hockey. Also, there's a natural tendency to want to see new up and coming players take the legend's place. Even at the last Olympics in Salt Lake City where Hasek played but the Czech team didn't earn a medal, I know there were Czech fans who felt that management should have passed up Hasek for Roman Cechmanek, himself a brilliant, if mercurial goaltender, who has made quite a mark in the NHL."