The 43-year-old Czech was pulled by Red Wings coach Mike Babcock in Game 4 of the first round of the playoffs, replaced by Chris Osgood, who became one of Detroit’s stars in its run to winning the Stanley Cup.
The way Hasek played his position is unique. No one before him played goal this way and it’s unlikely that anyone after him will. When something is visually non-conforming people seem to always want to stare at it just because of the oddity of it. And that absolutely is the case with Hasek playing goal.
It took a while but Hasek eventually opened the eyes of executives throughout the NHL and made them realize they should judge him on his results not his style of play. Hasek got no points for style, but he got plenty of points for results.
He did the most unorthodox things you’ll see from a goalie. These include making saves while lying on his back, while contorting his body and even while having his back to the puck. What’s more is that he’ll stop some shots by dropping his stick and grabbing the puck with the exposed fingers of his hand on his blocker’s side.
To say he was an oddity in how he plays goal is one of the all-time understatements in hockey. But it’s not an overstatement to say that he protected the goal as if his children are standing in the net behind him. He was completely committed to making sure the puck didn’t get by him.
Hasek was drafted by Chicago in 1983 but he continued to play in his homeland until 1990 when he was 25 and joined Indianapolis of the International Hockey League. That same season the Blackhawks took a look at him for five games and then for another 20 the following season. But Chicago really didn’t know what to make of his unique style. His unorthodox play raised doubts over whether he could ever win on a consistent basis. So in August of 1992 Chicago dealt Hasek to Buffalo.
John Muckler was Buffalo’s coach and general manager for part of the time Hasek played with the Sabres (nine seasons from 1992 to 2001). Muckler and I were talking once about what made Wayne Gretzky so special a player and I mentioned to him that I felt nobody had ever thought the game as well as Gretzky. Muckler told me there was one other player who thought the game at Gretzky’s level and that player was Hasek, who has uncanny ability to read plays and compute all the variables when the puck is in his zone. Without his extremely keen hockey sense, Hasek would not have come close to achieving the success he has achieved.
Hasek came into his own his second season in Buffalo. His career would peak with the Sabres and he had his best years while with Buffalo. A key to his emergence was that management showed confidence in him. By closely watching Hasek they knew he had a system and his unorthodox body posture and the unorthodox saves he made were just part of who he was in goal. It wasn’t as if he reinvented the wheel with each save he made even if it seemed to many that was the case.
So many teams work so hard to avoid odd-man rushes but for the Sabres it wasn’t the end of the world if they gave up odd-man rushes because they knew they had Hasek in net. In fact, Buffalo played a risky style which allowed a ton of odd-man rushes because it had Hasek between the pipes.
While with the Sabres Hasek became the only goalie to win the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s MVP in consecutive seasons, doing so in 1997 and 1998. In both those years he also won the Lester B. Person Award as the league’s player of the year as voted on by the players. He won six Vezina Trophies as the NHL’s best goalie in a span of eight years. From the 1993-94 season through the 1997-98 season his average save percentage was .930.
PHT: After the Rangers and Bruins face off in Game 3 of their series (7:30 p.m. ET; Live Extra, NBCSN), the Kings and Sharks play (10 ET; Live Extra, NBCSN) Game 4 of theirs.
Watch Wings celebrate with Cup
June 4: Red Wings celebrate winning the Stanley Cup, each taking a turn holding it above his head.
NBC analysts review Wings' run to Cup
June 4: The crew talks about how Detroit won the Stanley Cup and what Pittsburgh needs for next year.
Highlights from Wings' Cup clincher
June 4: How Detroit knocked off Pittsburgh in Game 6 to win Stanley Cup.
Netcam: Preds vs. Wings
April 12: Hasek got the best of Ellis in this 4-2 Wings win.
Retiring Hasek has no regrets
June 9: Goalie exits game after getting name on the Stanley Cup for second time.
Video: NHL from NBC Sports
Highlights: Red Wings top Blackhawks in Game 3
The Detroit Red Wings returned home tied at one in their Western Conference semifinals series with the Chicago Blackhawks. After a physical, but scoreless first period that was dominated by the Blackhawks, the Red Wings jumped out to a two goal lead by scoring twice in 31 seconds. Detroit ended up winning the game 3-1 and now have a 2-1 lead in the series.
Check out photos from the Kings' Stanley Cup victory parade in LA.
Stanley Cup playoffs
Check out photos from the NHL postseason action.
Stanley Cup winners
A look at the teams that have earned the right to hoist Lord Stanley's prize since 1965.
Some of Hollywood's hottest celebrities take in NHL games.
Check out the ice girls from around the National Hockey League.