DETROIT — As Dominik Hasek read from his typed-out retirement speech, Red Wings general manager Ken Holland looked to be on the verge of tears. His eyes watered, taking turns looking at Dom and out into the crowd gathered for the ceremony on Monday morning.
“In my opinion, you look at what Dom’s achieved — two Stanley Cups, two Hart trophies, six Vezinas …” Holland paused to get confirmation from Dom that the staggering number six — second only to Montreal Canadiens great Jacques Plante’s seven — was correct.
“Six Vezina Trophies… you’re talking one of the greatest goaltenders to ever play the game.”
Over the past 15 seasons, only Martin Brodeur and Patrick Roy were in the same elite echelon with Hasek, who Holland undoubtedly called a “first-ballot hall-of-famer.”
Even more impressive than Hasek’s trophy case, which he added to this season when the Red Wings captured the Cup last week, was his play on the ice.
“We just kept talking about all those moves — up and down and around and flat and sideways,” Red Wings owner Mike Illitch marveled. “Only Dominik could make those kind of moves.”
Because he had a Slinky for a spine, as announcers coined, Hasek made even routine stops look spectacular. He was entertaining, but he was the utmost competitor — even in practice.
“He kept track — he knew who had a good day against him,” former Red Wings captain Steve Yzerman said. “He knew where the goals went in. He really took pride just in shutting down in practice. It really made it a lot of fun for us.”
After a second-round playoff exit with the Buffalo Sabres in 2001, Hasek talked with Sabres’ management and ownership about getting a chance to win it all somewhere else.
Hasek admitted that it was a tough decision to leave a city where he spent nine seasons, the place where management trusted him to be an NHL starter.
But it was time.
“It was one of my best decisions in my life, at least in my professional hockey career to choose Hockeytown,” Hasek said. “Two great places, I will never ever forget in my life.”
Although the Wings struggled in the opening round against the Vancouver Canucks in 2002, Detroit bounced back to win four straight in the series. That June, Hasek finally raised Lord Stanley over his head.
Hasek had contemplated retirement before, sitting out the entire season after winning the Cup. But he came back for a second tour in the following year, and then for a third tour starting in 2006 and ending on Monday.
Six years and one more Cup later, the 43-year-old is finally ready to call it quits. He’s going back to the Czech Republic to focus his undying energy on his Dominator clothing line. His son is off to college at Michigan State. And Dom was smiling, saying Monday may have been more special than 2002.
“I’m glad that I can make my decision and I just don’t feel today that I’m ready to compete on the highest level,” he said. “Not because of the physical things, but because I need motivation every day, to go to practice, to get ready for the season. And right now I don’t feel it’s there. I don’t want to disappoint anybody, I don’t want to disappoint myself, I don’t want to disappoint the people around me. And I think in this case, I don’t feel that way. It’s better to say goodbye.”
Even though Holland didn’t look ready to let go, that reasoning was enough for him.
“There was nothing to discuss,” Holland said. “Dom was completely at peace with the decision that he had made. So in my mind, there’s no use me spending time trying to convince Dom to change his mind. He talked to his family, he talked to his agent, he put a lot into this decision. I think he’s at peace with his decision.”