|Although Dominik Hasek's playing days are now behind him, his generous charity work with children through his Hasek's Heroes foundation lives on.
Dominik Hasek put the wraps on his career in 2008 after winning another Stanley Cup with the Red Wings. Some would think that means his involvement in hockey is done, but part of the legacy he left as one of the dominant players in the NHL will go on uninterrupted.
Hasek's Heroes, established by the goalkeeper before he left Buffalo in March 2001, will continue to benefit from his generosity.
The organization is so special to him, that Hasek recognized it in his retirement press conference.
"I have to take a moment to thank the Hasek's Heroes program, for less fortunate kids, which I established in Buffalo," he said. "When we began this program, few believed that it would still be going strong eight years later, especially when I left Buffalo a few months after I started it."
Shortly before he became a Red Wing, Hasek donated $1 million to the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo to develop the Dominik Hasek Youth Hockey League, or, Hasek's Heroes. The group partners with the Buffalo School District to provide academic and athletic opportunities for low and middle income families.
"There were several things he wanted to do to help out," in founding Hasek's Heroes, its Executive Director Sean Green said. "Dominik's son was interested in playing hockey and he realized that not everyone had this opportunity. He wanted to do that for children in Buffalo."
Hasek's commitment to the city has endured through his experiences in Detroit.
"At the recent Hockey in the Hood Tournament he was able to come to Detroit and watch the kids play," Green said. "He was very proud of them, especially the age group we brought -- some of these kids started in the program and seven or eight years later they are playing in a tournament. When they started some of them couldn't even stand up on skates."
Hasek mentioned with great pride how he saw the kids win a game in Detroit and how special they are to him.
"To the kids who are a part of our program, I would like to say how proud of you I am when I can see you with my own eyes and how you are getting better every year," Hasek said. "You are a big inspiration for me."
Green relates a story about how much Hasek has meant to the program. Shortly after Green started in his current role, he mentioned to Hasek that he was working on securing hockey sticks. Soon after that, 180 sticks appeared through one of Hasek's contacts.
"He's just a class act," Green said. "He's just a good-hearted person. He loves giving back to the kids. He's just great to be around."
"To the kids who are a part of our program, I would like to say how proud of you I am when I can see you with my own eyes and how you are getting better every year." -- Dominik Hasek
Hasek's Heroes has also received strong support from the NHL Foundation and the Buffalo Sabres organization. On Jan. 1 they took part in the Amp Energy NHL Winter Classic in Buffalo, skating on the smaller rink next to the main one at Ralph Wilson Stadium for all 71,000 fans to see.
"Both the NHL and the Sabres have been fantastic," Green said. "They have a place in their hearts for us."
Hasek's Heroes is also part of NHL Diversity, a charitable component of the NHL Foundation's "Hockey is for Everyone" initiative. For over a decade, the NHL has provided support and unique programming to youth hockey organizations like Hasek's that are committed to offering economically disadvantaged boys and girls of all ages opportunities to play hockey.
"Hasek's Heroes has helped take the game of hockey to underprivileged children and teach these children that anything is possible if you work hard, believe in yourself and follow your dreams," said Kenneth Martin, Jr., the NHL's Vice President for Community and Diversity Programming.
Martin and the NHL believe that what Hasek has represented as a netminder and the benefactor of this program is truly heroic.
"The opportunity for these children to participate in Hasek's Heroes is unique and one they will never forget," Martin said. "We at the NHL believe that Dominik's work with Hasek's Heroes exemplifies the efforts of all our NHL athletes who give tirelessly to their communities."
While the programs success is not measured in wins and losses, it does have some impressive numbers to brag about.
|Hasek's Heroes has partnered with the Salvation Army, local churches and school programs in a learn to skate program for over 200 needy children. |
Hasek's Heroes began with some 30 kids on the ice in a learn to skate program. Now there are more than 200 registered participants in an actual hockey skills program and more than 50 in an after school learn to skate program with the Buffalo Schools. Hasek's Heroes also partners with the Salvation Army, local churches and school programs.
The ultimate goal is to get players to compete at the high school level and further their educations. Green notes with great pride that five individuals on the City High School Champion South Park team started in Hasek's Heroes.
City Honors School, which is nationally recognized as one of the best education high schools in the country, will also have two Hasek's Heroes alumni enrolled this coming year.
While some of the older participants may realize the great player Hasek is, not all see him that way.
"He's been gone eight years and some of the new kids don't know exactly *who* he is, other than he helps them start off in life with this opportunity. (They don't see him as) an NHL superstar," Green said.
Don't expect Hasek to just fade into the sunset. He has Heroes to support.
"He called me the Sunday night prior to his announcement and said that he still plans on his appearances one or two times a year," Green said. "Not restricted by the NHL schedule It will be a little easier now, with different time frames. He'll have more flexibility and (should be able) to stay a little bit longer."
To learn more about Hasek's Heroes, call (716) 875-4820 or visit www.HaseksHeroes.org.To lean more about NHL Diversity call (212) 789-2000
Author: Stephanie Geosits | Special to NHL.com