They said he was selfish. They questioned his heart and called him a quitter. ESPN hockey analyst Darren Pang said he lacked dedication for physical conditioning.
For months, people uttered harsh words about Dominik Hasek, yet none of them knew he walked into Ken Holland’s office during the 2004 season and asked to stop receiving paychecks. Three million dollars? No thanks, he said. If I’m not playing, you’re not paying.
It was a professional gesture that reaped tremendous benefits for his place in Red Wings history.
Hasek’s classy demeanor earned another stint with the Wings, who invited him back for the 2006-07 season. He didn’t disappoint: He finished second in goals against average (2.05), best in the Western Conference with eight shutouts – and – his 38 victories earned the title of Oldest Goaltender in NHL History to Record a 30-Win Season.
Not bad for a 42-year old playing for $750,000.
“I believed that I can get back and play on the highest level,” Hasek said from his locker stall in 2007. “The question was only if I could stay healthy.”
It was a legit question. Hasek suffered an injured groin in the 2006 Olympics, abruptly ending a stellar season with the Ottawa Senators. In the off-season, the future Hall of Famer was sought by Holland since Manny Legace proved he wasn’t a difference maker in the Wings’ first-round exit to Edmonton.
Hasek was a tremendous boost, leading the Wings to the best record in the Western Conference. In the 2007 postseason, he posted a 1.79 goals against average while leading the Wings to the conference finals.
“I believe that even with my age, (if) I prepare well and do everything right, I can compete and play very well,” Hasek said prior to the post-season. “So it sort of doesn’t surprise me completely, but it very satisfies me because I could prove it to myself and to other people, and first of all I could help this team.”
In the conference finals, the Wings lost to Anaheim in six games, thanks in part to Andreas Lilja’s enormous gaffe in Game 5.
In 2008, Hasek lasted four playoff games against Nashville in the opening round. He allowed seven goals in Games 3 and 4 combined, then Chris Osgood took over and led the Wings to their 11th Cup in franchise history.
Hasek, however, never complained. His career resume says he could have garnered another chance in the playoffs, yet he never got it, and all along, he accepted the demotion like a gentleman.
It all paints a fresh portrait.
Wings fans should pleasantly remember him for knocking off arch-nemesis Patrick Roy and the Colorado Avalanche in 2002, a magical performance that entailed back-to-back shutouts in Games 6 and 7. They should remember him for being that missing piece at the end of a Red Wings dynasty, a player who helped lead another parade down Woodward Avenue while the Cup gleamed with summer sunshine.
Hasek was a Red Wing, not a rent-a-wing.
His jersey will never be retired, but he confirmed his place as one of the greatest to wear the Winged Wheel.
“This organization, without doubt, it has a great history,” Hasek said. “It’s one of the Original Six.
“If you look up to the top of the roof, there are only a few players, but really [they] are the best ones to ever play. Steve Yzerman, Terry Sawchuk and Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsay.
“To be a part of Red Wings history, it’s a big honor.”