TURIN, Italy - Dominik Hasek departed the Olympics on Friday in as big a rush as he arrived earlier in the week, leaving the world champion Czech Republic without one of hockey’s best big-game goalies.
Hasek, the player most responsible for the Czechs’ surprise gold medal in Nagano in 1998, didn’t last 10 minutes in the Turin Games before getting injured. But with Nashville Predators goalie Tomas Vokoun replacing him, Hasek isn’t conceding his absence will hurt the Czechs’ gold-medal chances.
“He is a great goalie and the Czech Republic will be OK in goal with him,” Hasek said after team doctors decided he could not play again in Turin.
But Vokoun is no Dominator, at least not yet. With Vokoun in net Thursday, the Czechs were beaten by Switzerland 3-2 in one of the biggest upsets since the NHL first sent its players to the Olympics in 1998.
That loss won’t necessarily hurt the Czechs’ medal chances, since they will qualify for the quarterfinals merely by finishing among the top four in their six-team group.
But this certainly wasn’t the way last year’s world champions — winning with Vokoun in net — wanted to start the Olympics.
Hasek, a six-time Vezina Trophy winner as the NHL’s top goalie, originally said he hurt his hamstring when he went into a split to block a shot early in the Czechs’ 4-1 victory Wednesday over Germany.
A team therapist later said he had muscle tightness, but the Ottawa Senators described the injury as a slight strain in the back of his upper right leg, above the groin.
“Our medical staff decided that I’m not able to play. It’s over,” Hasek said. “Also, I don’t want to get hurt for the rest of the National Hockey League season.”
The injury is not believed to be related to the groin injury that required surgery and kept Hasek, 41, out of all but 14 games of the 2003-04 season with the Detroit Red Wings.
Hasek, a two-time NHL MVP, will be replaced by Dusan Salficky, a 2001 New York Islanders draft pick who has played since 2002 in the Russian Hockey League.
The Czechs got more bad news: forward Patrik Elias also is out for the rest of the games with bruised ribs. He will be replaced by Ales Kotalik, who has 21 goals and 23 assists with the Buffalo Sabres.
After getting hurt, Hasek suggested the tight schedule that allowed some players to spend only one day in Turin before their first Olympic game, and the long flight from the U.S., might have contributed to his injury.