It has been more than a decade since Dominik Hasek ended a historic nine-year run in Buffalo with the Sabres. Even though he hasn't patrolled the Buffalo crease for some time, he's still making a great contribution to the city.
That legacy for Hasek, whowon the Hart Trophy twice and the Vezina Trophy a remarkable six times in Buffalo, began with the former goaltender's passion project: Hasek's Heroes. Hasek established the organization in 2001 with a personal donation of $1 million, at that time one of the largest individual donations to a single charity in sports history. Since then, Hasek's Heroes has worked tirelessly to help bring hockey to underprivileged young people around Buffalo, teaching them the sport along with the life lessons that come with it.
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"Dominik is still verymuch a part of the program. Every year he contributes about $50,000 to the program," said Sean Green, the executive director of Hasek's Heroes."He loves coming back to Buffalo. When he comes back, he wants to make sure he's on the ice with the kids, he wants to meet the parents. He doesn't just come in and say 'that's nice.'"
The lifeblood in recentyears for the program has been two local rinks that the organization purchased and refurbished. Those two rinks have given the program a central hub and eliminated the hassles usually associated with booking ice time.
"We can rent ice times in order to save money for managing the facilities. The kids don't pay anything," Hasek told NHL.com. "They have all the gear, coaching and ice time for free. It's great."
These facilities alsoprovide a home for the program's after-school activities as well as ice for the more than 500 area youth impacted by the program every year.
"We have perfect times for kids to have the facility. And it's a revenue stream for us," Green said. "People walk in and see it's a Hasek's Heroes facility and askquestions. We have high school groups come here, men's groups come here. It'sinvaluable having the access to the rinks."
Over the years, Hasek'sHeroes has partnered with the Sabres, the NHL and several other groups to help enhance the lives of children in need. And while education and guidance are the key aspects of the program, the group has also had its hand in grooming some local hockey talent in Buffalo. While Hasek's Heroes has yet to have aparticipant play college hockey, a recent high school championship team from the area boasted 14 different players who had come up through the organization.
Through its countless contributions to Buffalo, Hasek's Heroes is continuing to grow and ensure that the legacy of the man once known as "the Dominator" will continue tobe felt in western New York for years to come.
"It makes me happy. Every time, when I am in Buffalo, I am going on the ice with the kids," said Hasek. "Although it's been many years since I've played for the Sabres, the kids know that it's me who founded the program and that I was a goalie for the Sabres. Even though the younger kids haven't seen me in goal."