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Hasek loved playing against game's best

by Staff Writer / Detroit Red Wings

Dominik Hasek is among the Red Wings' all-time goaltending leaders in regular-season wins and shutouts. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Detroit Red Wings)

TORONTO -- Pat LaFontaine witnessed some of Dominik Hasek's most amazing saves as teammates with the Buffalo Sabres, and he helped welcome "The Dominator" to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

LaFontaine said that Hasek made saves he had never seen before that day and he will never see again. He said "The Dominator" is a perfect nickname for Hasek, because he could truly dominate a game like few individual players could. Everyone on the Sabres roster played with a higher level of confidence when they knew Hasek was behind them.

LaFontaine said the city of Buffalo is a great sports city and the people there adore their heroes. He said Hasek is an iconic figure there and for good reason.

One of Hasek's greatest traits was his work ethic. LaFontaine said Hasek played like he practiced, and the stories were legendary and all true of how he competed to stop the puck even in practice.

LaFontaine talked about Hasek's performance in the 1998 Nagano Games. He said the goalie had started to receive the recognition he deserved before those Olympics started, but after the Czech Republic won the gold, "from that moment on the world knew how great he was."

He closed by saying Hasek deserved to be in the Hockey Hall of Fame because of his relentlessness as a goaltender and his accomplishments as a goaltender, both of which were rivaled by few.

Hasek began his speech by thanking and congratulating the other members of the Class of 2014, noting that referee Bill McCreary was on the ice for the two most important games he ever played for his country, the semifinal and gold-medal games in Nagano, and he was happy to share this honor with him.

The goaltender said his path to this point was marked by kindness and support from countless people. He thanked his parents and his grandparents for their influence and support.

Hasek said his grandfather was a great soccer player, and he would score goals on a young Dominik and then needle him about it. He also said that helped make him want to be a goalie.

At the age of six, Hasek's father cobbled together some goalie equipment for his son. Some of it was handmade, but Hasek said he took to the position immediately, and never wanted to play anywhere else again.

He said he couldn't thank his mother and grandmother enough for the sacrifices they made, particularly waking up early so he could practice being a goaltender.

Hasek said at the age of 25, he decided to try his luck in the NHL. It didn't go well at first, and Hasek said it was a decision he questioned at first after he was sent to the minors and also unprotected in an expansion draft.

Eventually, Hasek said he embraced those early tribulations and it made him a better player. Hasek said he learned how to adjust to smaller ice surfaces and learned the culture while playing in the International Hockey League.

He said he enjoyed his time with the Chicago Blackhawks, but with Eddie Belfour playing in front of me there was not enough time for both. Hasek said he was "shuffled off" to Buffalo and it turned out to be one of the best moves of his life.

Hasek said some of the best years of his life were in Buffalo because of the support from the owners, coaches and the players in the organization. He thanked people behind the scenes who "focused on the little things so we could focus on the big things."

The fans in Buffalo supported Hasek, so much that when he returned from Nagano, he felt like he was bringing the gold medal back to his home country.

When Hasek went to play for the Red Wings, he said it was something special to play with the greatest team and greatest collection of players he had ever played with.

He thanked the owners of HC Pardubice, his hometown team in the Czech Republic who helped him win one more championship after his NHL career ended.

Hasek closed by saying he enjoyed getting to play with and against the greatest players in the world, and that they were some of the greatest people he had ever met.

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