On Friday, March 28 the Buffalo Sabres announced via their twitter account and their official website that the franchise has made plans to retire no. 39 in honor of Dominik Hasek in a ceremony before one of their home games during the 2014-2015 season, an event that has been widely speculated and anticipated by the Sabres fan base since the legendary goaltender initially announced his retirement from the NHL in 2008.
Hasek will become the seventh player to receive that honor by the Sabres organization, after Tim Horton (2), Rick Martin (7), Gilbert Perreault (11), Rene Robert (14), Pat LaFontaine (16), and Danny Gare (18).
Hasek was first acquired by the Sabres in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks in 1992, where he initially served as the backup to Grant Fuhr during the 1992-1993 season. However, an injury to Fuhr in the 1993-1994 season elevated Hasek into the starting role. It was then that Hasek took the league by storm, establishing himself as one of (if not the) best goalies in the NHL, winning six Vezina Trophies as the league’s top goalie (1994, 1995, 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2001), along two Hart Trophies as League MVP (1997 and 1998) and two Lester B. Pearson awards as the “Most Outstanding Player” in the NHL (1997 and 1998), over eight more seasons with the team.
He also backstopped Team Czech Republic to a Gold Medal in the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan.
During his nine year tenure with the team, Hasek played in 491 games, posting a 234-170-60 record with a 2.22 goals against average, a .926 save percentage, and 55 shutouts. He also led the NHL in save percentage for six straight seasons (1992-93 to 1998-99) and posted a league high 13 shutouts during the 1997-1998 season, which still stands as a Sabres franchise record.
Hasek also played 68 playoff games with the Sabres, leading them to a two straight Eastern Conference Finals in 1998 and 1999, and a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1999, losing four games to two to the Dallas Stars on the infamous “No Goal” by Stars forward Brett Hull. In those 68 games, Hasek posted a 37-30 record, with a .930 save percentage, a 2.04 goals against average, and six shutouts.
However, after two disappointing playoff finishes in 2000 and 2001, Hasek demanded to be traded to a Stanley Cup contender, and was subsequently traded to the Detroit Red Wings, where he would play for four seasons (split by taking the 2002-2003 season off, the 2004-2005 NHL lockout, and a short stint with the Ottawa Senators during the 2005-2006 season), winning the Stanley Cup in 2002 and 2008.
During his time in Buffalo from 1992 to 2001, Hasek set multiple Sabres franchise records, with 491 games played (since passed Ryan Miller), 234 wins (also since passed by Ryan Miller), 55 shutouts, and lowest goals against average with 2.22. He also holds single season franchise records with a 1.87 goals against average and a .937 save percentage, both during the 1998-1999 season.
After finishing his NHL career in 2008, Hasek still holds the NHL record for all-time career save percentage with .922 and most games by a European goalie with 735. He also ranks sixth all-time in career shutouts with 81, eighth all-time in lowest goals against average with 2.13, and eleventh all-time in career wins with 389.
While not having his jersey number retired until next season, Dominik Hasek will also be honored by the Sabres on Saturday, March 29 when he will be inducted into the Buffalo Sabres Hall of Fame, becoming the 42nd person to receive that honor.