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Hasek announces retirement

by Dan Rosen

After 16 seasons, the Detroit Red Wings' Dominik Hasek has announced his retirment from the NHL on Monday, Jun. 9.
Bid on autographed Dominik Hasek memorabilia
"The Dominator" is done dominating.

Dominik Hasek, who earned his nickname by being one of the best goalies on the planet throughout the 1990s and into the new millennium, announced Monday morning at a news conference in Detroit that he is retiring from the NHL for the second time.

The 43-year-old Czech netminder also retired after winning the Stanley Cup in 2002, but returned after skipping just one season. He indicated Monday that this time his decision to retire is firm and there will be no more dramatic returns to the League.
"Although I'm pretty sure all of you know why I'm here today I must say it officially, that I am here to say goodbye to the NHL and all of you," Hasek said during his opening remarks. "After 16 great years in the League I'm here to say I'm finally retiring from hockey and to say thank you to everyone who has had such a big impact in my career."

Hasek's retirement doesn't come as a great shock considering his age and that he was replaced early in the recently completed Playoffs by 35-year-old veteran Chris Osgood, who the Wings rode to their fourth Stanley Cup in 11 years. Osgood is slated to return as Detroit's No. 1 goalie and Jimmy Howard, a 24-year-old prospect who practiced with the team every day during the Playoffs, appears ready to be a full-time backup.

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Hasek said he came to his decision immediately after the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup in Pittsburgh last Wednesday night. He told his agent, Ritch Winter, the following day and spoke with GM Ken Holland at the team's victory parade on Friday.

Holland said he could tell that Hasek was "at peace with his decision" so he did not try to talk him out of it.

"Physically I am feeling great," Hasek said. "It's about motivation. I just don't feel that I am ready to compete on the highest level. Not because of physical things, but because I need motivation every day to go for a practice to get ready for the season and now I don't feel that's there. I don't want to disappoint anybody, myself or the people around me, so in this case if I don't feel this way it's better to say goodbye."

Flanking Hasek during the news conference was Holland on his right and team owner Mike Ilitch on his left. Many of Hasek's teammates were also in attendance.

"It makes this moment for me even more special," Hasek said of his teammates being there. "I know a few days ago I didn't tell everyone. There were maybe three, four or five guys that knew about it. I told Nick (Lidstrom) you are the captain and you can let the other guys know. It would be nice if they were here, but it's your decision. To see them here it makes it even more special."

Hasek said he is going to return to the Czech Republic with wife Alena and his 14-year-old daughter Dominika. His son, Michal, will stay in the United States and will be a freshman at Michigan State University in the fall.

Hasek, who was always part-time businessman during his playing career, will take on a full time role back home as he will work to market his brand of sportswear named Dominator Clothing, which launched in 1998.

I don't want to relax. I need to do something, I'm hoping to be as good in business as I was on the ice. - Dominik Hasek
"I don't want to relax. I need to do something," Hasek said. "I'm hoping to be as good in business as I was on the ice."

It'll be a challenge considering Hasek is leaving the ice with his legacy intact and a spot in the Hockey Hall of Fame all but assured. He went 389-223-96 in 735 career appearances with 81 shutouts and a 2.20 goals against average.

"There were three great goalies in Dom's era," Holland, a former minor-league goalie, said in reference to Hasek, Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur. "How they stack up against the other guys, the greatest goalies in the game, it's hard to say. In my opinion you look at what Dom has achieved…you're talking one of the great goaltenders to ever play the game. He had a unique style. A lot of the things he did helped change the game. In my mind he's a first ballot Hall of Famer. He's one of the greatest goaltenders to ever play the game."

Hasek, who debuted in the NHL with the Chicago Blackhawks in 1990, thanked many influential people during his speech, which was interrupted twice by his cell phone going off.

He started with his nine seasons in Buffalo.

Dominik Hasek won six Vezina and two Hart Trophies during his nine years as a Buffalo Sabre.
Hasek, who was drafted by Chicago in the 10th round of the 1983 Entry Draft – 16 goalies went before him – was traded to the Sabres before the 1992-93 season.

Hasek won all of his Vezina and Hart Trophies in Buffalo and led the Sabres to the Stanley Cup Final in 1999. He also led the Czech Republic to its only Olympic gold in the 1998 Nagano Games.

"I had opportunity to play with some incredible players. I want to thank them for all the great work they did in front of me in helping me be more successful," Hasek said. "It was John Muckler who gave me the chance to be the starting goaltender. I don't think I disappointed him, but I can tell you for sure the success I had wouldn't have come without John's support and encouragement."

After an injury-plagued 1999-00 season, Hasek returned to form in 2000-01 and took home his sixth Vezina Trophy. He wanted a trade to a contender, so the Sabres went looking for a trading partner.

Detroit was the place and GMs Darcy Regier and Holland struck a deal that gave the Sabres forward Vyacheslav Kozlov and the Red Wings first round pick in 2002 for Hasek.

"I received many individual awards (in Buffalo) and it came time to leave in 2001," Hasek said. "It was the best decision in my professional life to choose Hockeytown."

The trade turned into a steal as Hasek won a career-high 41 games against just 15 losses in his first season with the Red Wings. He posted a 1.86 GAA and six shutouts in the playoffs, helping the Wings win their third Stanley Cup since 1997.

Hasek, who was 37 at the time, decided to call it quits after the 2002 Cup run.

"I was leaving at that time with peace," Hasek said. "I felt I didn't want to play."

But he "retired" for one season before returning to the Red Wings at the start of the 2003-04 season. It didn't go so well for Hasek, who played only 14 games before suffering a season-ending groin injury that required surgery.

His contract with Detroit was up at the end of the season anyway, and Hasek decided to go a different route once healthy after offseason surgery. He signed with a one-year deal with the Ottawa Senators, who traded Patrick Lalime to St. Louis to make room for the 39-year-old Hasek.

The lockout wiped out his first season in Ottawa, but he went 28-10-4 in 43 appearances before the 2006 Winter Olympics. However, it was in Turin where Hasek suffered a hip injury that would shelve him until the summer.

They gave me another chance. It gave me a chance to play this year with one of the greatest teams ever assembled and win the Cup again - Dominik Hasek
Without Hasek, Ottawa, which was the top seed in the Eastern Conference but now relying on rookie Ray Emery, was bounced in the second round. Ottawa chose to keep Emery as its starting goalie to start the 2006-07 season.

"I told my agent that I wanted to prove something in Ottawa, I want to play," Hasek said. "If they didn't want me, that's OK."

In late July 2006 Hasek got a call from Winter telling him the good news that Holland called and the Red Wings wanted to sign him again. Hasek, who vividly remembers picking cherries from a tree during a respite while on a bicycle ride with in the Czech Republic at the time he got the phone call, was ecstatic.

It wasn't until only a couple of days ago that he learned that it was in fact Winter who called the Red Wings and not the other way around.

"When he told me the Red Wings wanted me to play and I said, 'Wow, that's fantastic,' " Hasek said. "I didn't know until two days ago that my agent called you (looking at Holland), but who cares?"

Holland signed Hasek to sign a one-year, bonus-laden contract. "The Dominator" proceeded to rip off a 38-win season and led the Red Wings to the Presidents' Trophy and the Western Conference Final.

The re-marriage with the Red Wings worked out so well that Hasek signed another one-year, bonus-laden contract last July.

"They gave me another chance," Hasek said. "It gave me a chance to play this year with one of the greatest teams ever assembled and win the Cup again."

Unfortunately, though, Year No. 2 didn't end exactly as Hasek had hoped. He started the season as the Wings No. 1 goalie, but early struggles were compounded by a hip injury leading to Chris Osgood taking over. Still, Hasek was given the benefit of the doubt when he finally got healthy as coach Mike Babcock announced he would be the Wings starting goalie in the playoffs.

That lasted four games.

Hasek was pulled 6:35 into the second period of Game 4 against Nashville. He had given up three goals against 14 shots after allowing four on 28 shots in Game 3, including the tying and winning goals just nine seconds apart late in the third period.

Osgood was tabbed as the starter for Game 5 and he won his first nine games. Osgood finished the playoffs 14-4 with a League-best 1.55 goals against average. Hasek didn't play another minute after Babcock pulled him.

If you believe him this time, he won't play another NHL minute ever again.

"I am leaving this game with the Stanley Cup and Jennings Trophy and it's nice, but most importantly I'm leaving this game feeling very, very happy because of all the memories and friendships I have made," Hasek said. "Thank you very, very much."

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