BUFFALO -- The Buffalo Sabres retired Dominik Hasek's number Tuesday, raising his No. 39 to the rafters at First Niagara Center before the game against the Detroit Red Wings.
Hasek received a lengthy standing ovation when he was introduced by legendary play-by-play broadcaster Rick Jeanneret.
"I don't think I'll ever get tired of hearing the cheers of Sabres fans," Hasek said. "It's very humbling to be standing here tonight and look up in the rafters and seeing the names of Gilbert Perreault, Rick Martin, Rene Robert, Tim Horton, Danny Gare, and Pat LaFontaine. It reminds me that Buffalo is a special place in the game of hockey."
In nine seasons with the Sabres, Hasek won the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP twice (1996-97, 1997-98) and the Vezina Trophy six times, and he led the Sabres to the Stanley Cup Final in 1999.
"I had a chance to play with the greatest teammates a guy could ask for," Hasek said. "Without guys like Michael Peca, Richard Smehlik, Pat Lafontaine, Alexei Zhitnik and so many more, I would not be standing here today. It was because of them we were able to accomplish so many great things throughout my time here. Some of the other banners hanging in the rafters of this building are a testament to that, and we will always have that special bond."
Robert and Gare brought Hasek's banner onto the ice, and they were accompanied by members of Hasek's Heroes, a Buffalo charity founded by Hasek to help underprivileged children get into hockey.
"Knowing that my name and my number is joining this group of hockey legends brings a smile to my face and reminds me of all the games I have played for this wonderful franchise," Hasek said. "It takes more than one person to have a great career in hockey. I'm so lucky I have spent most of my career with this organization. Starting with the Knox family and carrying down to everyone who helped throughout my nine years as a Sabre, I could not have asked to be part of a more special hockey family."
Hasek was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in November and the Sabres Hall of Fame last March.
"I've considered myself the luckiest however because of the extraordinary fans here in Buffalo," Hasek said. "It is your unwavering support that propelled us to do the great things on the ice and will always be my fondest memory. Sabres fans are one of a kind, and having your support means just as much to me as any trophy I have won.
"Having my No. 39 retired by this organization is a special honor, and I cannot thank you enough for being a part of it."
The Sabres lost 3-1 to the Red Wings in a game featuring two young goalies from Hasek's native Czech Republic. Detroit's Petr Mrazek made 25 saves, and Buffalo's Michal Neuvirth 27.
"For Mrazek, I said, 'Pete, you better get out there on the ice and shake his hand before it starts. Go talk to him in Czech,'" Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "[Hasek] has had significant impact on the game, especially in his country, so I thought it would be a real thrill for Pete to make that happen."
Hasek was Neuvirth's idol when he was growing up.
"It was something special," Neuvirth said. "Good for Dominik, he deserved it, congratulations to him. Obviously, I wanted to give him the win tonight, but that didn't happen."