Dominik Hasek is perhaps the best goalie in NHL history. Sure, some goalies may have better numbers, won more awards and honors, and have more Stanley Cups.
But none of them were like Dominik Hasek. The Dominator was a superstar who did the most incredible things on the ice. Nobody could make fans’ jaws drop as Hasek could, and nobody could do the most breathtaking saves he pulled off.
Hasek made so many people fall in love with goaltending, and he’s probably, together with Patrick Roy, the most influential goalie in hockey history.
Dominik Hasek was a generational talent, but it took some time before everyone realized it. He made his debut in Czech Extraliga at only 16 and was league MVP three times before making it into the NHL. He was drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in 1983 but didn’t get the chance to play in America until 1990.
He was backup to Ed Belfour and Jimmy Waite, and during his first two years, he only played 25 regular season games. He did, however, get the chance to play in a Stanley Cup final.
During the 1992 Final, the Penguins were well on their way to sweeping the Blackhawks. In game 4, Mike Keenan decided to pull Ed Belfour 6:33 into the game. Hasek entered the ice, and the Pittsburgh Penguins seemed to have one hand on the cup.
But then, Jaromir Jagr stood up in front of the team.
“We didn’t know who the hell Hasek was because he’d hardly played,” said Bowman, the Penguins’ coach at the time. “Jagr wasn’t a very vocal player, but between periods he stood up and told our team, ‘Hey, let’s not take this for granted. We don’t want to face this guy going forward. You guys don’t know him, but I do. He’s a great goalie. He just hasn’t been given a chance.’”
Hasek made some remarkable saves but still allowed four goals on 25 shots. The Penguins won the cup, but Hasek had just presented himself to the world. And the rest is, as the saying goes, history.