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The greatest goaltender in history calls it quits
Thursday, July 29, 1999

This past year has been one in which greats from a number of pro sports have decided to leave their respected games. First there was Michael Jordan, then Wayne Gretzky, and John Elway. Now within two days, Barry Sanders and Dominik Hasek have decided to hang ‘em up. Only Hasek will play one more year before he quits for good.

Today was the day "The Dominator" made the huge announcement from his hometown in Prague in the Czech Republic. The winner 5 Vezina Trophies and two Hart Trophies, Hasek said today that he had been discussing this with the Sabres management since last November.

"I'm announcing it now so that when the season starts I can minimize the distraction for my teammates, for me and the Buffalo Sabres organization so we can concentrate only on hockey," Hasek said during the press conference. He repeated ever answer in Czech after his answer in English.

"We want our kids to go back to Czech Republic and share in our families' backgrounds and culture," Hasek said. "I can see every year it's more and more difficult, especially for my son, to adapt to the Czech life. Every year he has more problems to speak Czech. This is one of the reasons. "The longer we stay in the United States, the harder it will be for our kids."

Another reason for retiring was the pressure put on him by the media and always being in the public spotlight. He is the kind who likes to shun publicity and is a very private person. When asked about the whirlwind "Farewell Hasek Tour" which next season will be and the praise and glory he will receive in each city he will visit, Hasek said that he is not looking forward to that. He did acknowledge that one special night in Buffalo might be nice, but he is not too enthusiastic to receive the kind of reception that Wayne Gretzky received in every city he went to with the Rangers last year after it was known that he was retiring.

It was brought up that Dominik Hasek has written a book that was coming out soon in his home country and in it he revealed that he was going to retire after next season. That was one reason why he decided to announce it at this time. If the book had gotten out before his announcement and word of his retirement, it would have looked bad, Hasek supposedly said recently.

Now the accolades will be showered on The Dominator everywhere he goes. In his Farewell Tour, he can expect what he wants the least - lots of attention. Hasek has won just about everything except the Stanley Cup. He came the closest he has ever come this season when the Sabres took the Dallas Stars 6 games before the game was ended in triple overtime on Brett Hull's disputed goal. And now the timetable is set. He has one more year to capture what he probably desires the most in his hockey career. He help his Czech Republic hockey squad win the Olympic Gold Medal in 1998. He has captured 5 Vezina Trophies and 2 NHL Most Valuable Player (Hart) trophies. He has been the best regular season goaltender for the past six years. However, there is a rap sheet against him, whether fair or not, that he comes up short in the playoffs. This past season was the farthest he's gone. One season left to make believers of all his doubters.

It is my opinion that Dominik Hasek did what he felt was best for him and his team today. He did it with class and a lot of thought. He didn't want to cause another distraction during the regular season, so the summer was the perfect time to make this announcement. It also puts the ball squarely into Sabres owner John Rigas' court. Rigas said at the Sabres rally in downtown Buffalo after the Stanley Cup loss, that he will supply the tools to get the job done. The job he was referring to was winning the Stanley Cup. Today Rigas said that one can look at the situation as a glass half full or half empty. He's looking at it as a glass half full. He feels the Sabres can prepare themselves for the giant task ahead of them - winning the Stanley Cup and then replacing Dominik Hasek in goal. Those are two mighty tall orders.

Martin Biron, the heir apparent, is still slated to play most of next season in the AHL. This does not make too much sense, unless the Sabres feel that he is not the man to fill Hasek's huge skates. Biron did struggle at times in the AHL playoffs and the Sabres management reinforced the idea that Biron's place is in Rochester next season.

Dwayne Roloson is NOT the heir apparent. He knows that he is the backup and that someone else will man the Sabres nets in two seasons. That leaves the question of whether the Sabres intend to trade for a proven goalie.

One thing does stand out after today's announcement and the Sabres press conference. That is that no one can ever replace Dominik Hasek in goal. What the Sabres have to do is to surround their super goalie with players who can possible take the team to the next level. Next season will be the last chance for this team to win it all with the Dominator in the nets.