Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Dominik Hasek Buffalo Sabres Jersey Retrospective

Dominik Hasek became the youngest player in in professional hockey history when, at age 16 he suited up for HC Pardubice in the Czechoslovak Extraliga in 1980. He would play for Pardubice for nine seasons, including winning the championship twice in both 1987 and 1989 and be named the top player of the Czechoslovak Extraliga in 1987, 1989 and 1990 as well as the Goaltender of the Year for five consecutive seasons from 1986 through 1990.

He would play one season in Czechoslovakia for Dukla Jihlava in 1989-90 before moving to North America, as the restrictions on players from communist countries were now being lifted

Hasek Pardubice photo HasekPardubice.jpg
A very young Hasek with Tesla Pardubice

Drafted 199th overall in the 10th round back in the 1983 NHL Entry Draft by the Chicago Blackhawks, when players from communist countries had little chance of ever playing in the NHL, Hasek would not even find out he had been drafted until several months later. He would begin his time in North American hockey with the Indianapolis Ice of the IHL in 1990-91 before making his NHL with the Blackhawks - eight years after being originally drafted. His first win would come on March 8, 1991, a 5-3 win over his future club - the Buffalo Sabres.

Hasek Blackhawks rookie photo HasekBlackhawksrookie.jpg
Hasek during his rookie season with Chicago, as evidenced by the
1991 NHL All-Star patch, wearing the unfamiliar #34

The following season, backing up Chicago's then number one goaltender Ed Belfour, Hasek would split his time between Chicago and Indianapolis, playing in 20 games for each club. Unable to win the starting job from Belfour, Hasek would be traded during the offseason to the Buffalo Sabres where he would begin the next phase of his career.

Hasek's career in Buffalo got off to a slow start, as he fought to maintain his position on the Sabres depth chart with Tom Draper (11 games played), Daren Puppa (24) and Grant Fuhr (29) all competing for playing time in 1992-93. Eventually, Hasek would play in 28 games that season, finishing with a 11-10-4 record, but his goals against average of 3.15 was the lowest of the four, besting Fuhr's 3.47.

Buffalo Sabres 1992-93 jersey photo BuffaloSabres1992-93F.jpg
Buffalo Sabres 1992-93 jersey photo BuffaloSabres1992-93B.jpg
Hasek began his Sabres career in the classic blue and gold jerseys with the Stanley Cup Centennial patch decorating his jersey in 1992-93

Hasek took the reigns as the Sabres number one goaltender the following season with 58 games played and 30 wins to go along with a stellar 1.95 goals against average to lead the league thanks in part to 7 shutouts, also best in the NHL. Following the season he was recognized with both the Jennings Trophy, shared with Fuhr for the fewest goals allowed, and the Vezina Trophy as the league's best goaltender. During the playoffs, Hasek dueled with the Devils' Martin Brodeur and eventually prevailed in a 1-0 win in four overtimes to set a record for Most Saves in a Shutout with 70 which still stands today.

The 1994-95 season was shortened by labor issues, but when the season got underway, Hasek played in 41 of Buffalo's 48 games with a 2.11 goals against average to again lead the league on his way to a second consecutive Vezina Trophy.

Buffalo Sabres 1994-95 jersey photo BuffaloSabres1994-95jersey.jpg
Hasek won his second consecutive Vezina Trophy in 1994-95 with the Sabres 25th Anniversary patch on the upper right chest
photo courtesy of Classic Auctions

1995-96 was down year for the Sabres and Hasek, as his goals against average rose to 2.83 and he won 22 while losing 30 and tying 6, but just when he began to look mortal, he went on an extended run of goaltending excellence never before seen in the history of the NHL.

Buffalo Sabres 1995-96 jersey photo BuffaloSabres1995-96jersey-1.jpg
The Sabres wore the #1 patch in 1995-96 as a memorial to the late Roger Crozier, the first goaltender in Sabres history
photo courtesy of Classic Auctions

The 1996-97 season saw Hasek play in 67 games, winning 37 with a 2.09 goals against average. Following the season he would be named not only the recipient of his third Vezina Trophy in four seasons, but also be awarded both the Pearson Award as the Most Outstanding Player voted by his fellow players and the Hart Trophy as the NHL's Most Valuable Player, only the fourth goaltender to ever win the MVP award and first in 35 years.

Buffalo Sabres 1995-96 jersey photo BuffaloSabres1995-96jersey.jpg
For the 1996-97 season, the Sabres introduced an entirely new identity package, which included a change in the team colors and a bold, new logo plus a memorial patch to honor their original owner, Seymour Knox III
photo courtesy of Classic Auctions

Hasek would double up on both the Pearson Award and Hart Trophy, as well as winning his fourth Vezina Trophy in 1998 following his 33 wins and outstanding team record 13 shutouts in 72 games with a 2.09 goals against and a .932 save percentage in 1997-98. 

Buffalo Sabres 1997-98 ASG jersey photo BuffaloSabres1997-98F.jpg
Hasek competed in the Super Skills Competition at the 1998 NHL All-Star Game with the Czech flag on his jersey to denote his nationality for the one and only time due to the new World vs North America format

His third consecutive 30 win season came in 1998-99 when he set a career bests in both goals against average with 1.87 and a save percentage of .937, the sixth consecutive season he would lead the league. His trophy cabinet expanded yet again with this third consecutive Vezina Trophy, his fifth in six seasons. During the playoffs, Buffalo, the seventh seed in the east, marched to the only Stanley Cup Final during his time with the Sabres.

Buffalo Sabres 1998-99 SCF jersey photo BuffaloSabres1998-99F.jpg
A special patch adorned the Sabres jerseys during
the 1999 Stanley Cup Final

A persistent injury limited Hasek to 35 games during the 1999-00 season, but he still managed 15 wins with a 2.21 goals against in his curtailed season, the first in seven seasons he did not take home an NHL award.

 photo BuffaloSabres1999-00jersey.jpg
A Sabres 1999-00 jersey with the NHL 2000 patch, the fifth and final regular season patch worn by Hasek while with Buffalo in addition to the 1999 Stanley Cup Final patch and the Czech flag from the 1998 Super Skills Competition for a total of seven patches worn by "The Dominator"
photo courtesy of Classic Auctions

He rebounded in 2000-01 with 67 games played while equalizing a career high with 37 wins. His goals against was a familiar 2.11 and his save percentage was .921, all of which added up to a sixth Vezina Trophy in eight seasons. An overtime loss in Game 7 of the second round ended Hasek's time with Buffalo, as he was traded in an effort to lower the club's payroll and give him the opportunity to play with a more competitive team after nine memorable seasons with the Sabres.

Buffalo Sabres 2000-01 jersey photo BuffaloSabresAltF.jpg
Buffalo Sabres 2000-01 jersey photo BuffaloSabresAltB.jpg
The Sabres introduced an alternate jersey for the first time in their history in time for Hasek's final season in Buffalo, the fifth different style of Sabres jersey he wore

His outstanding career with the Sabres was recognized last night as Buffalo retired Hasek's #39, the sixth number retired by the club and first one in nine years.

Here is his speech at his retirement ceremony from last night.

Finally, an episode of "Beyond Blue & Gold" featuring Hasek on the occasion of his induction into the Sabres Hall of Fame in March of 2014.

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