Acrobatic Dominik Hasek did whatever it took to stop pucks from entering his net, and in doing so, earned the nickname 'The Dominator' and a reputation as one of the most dominant players, all positions included, of the 1990s and 2000s.
Born January 29, 1965 in Pardubice, Czechoslovakia, Hasek attended a try-out for five-year-olds wearing skate blades that screwed onto the soles of his shoes and ended up recruited by the nine-year-old group in need of a goaltender. By 16, he was playing professionally for HC Pardubice in the Czechoslovak Extraliga.
In 1983, the Chicago Blackhawks gambled and drafted Hasek 199th overall, who had observed the young goaltender playing with the Czech National Team. At the time, NHL teams were cautious in drafting players from Communist countries because they were often unwilling to play in the NHL or prevented from doing so by their countries. Hasek continued playing in Czechoslovakia, leading his teams to championships in 1987 and 1989, winning the top goaltender award each year between 1986 and 1990 and was named the league's best player in 1987, 1989 and 1990.
Hasek made his NHL debut with Chicago in 1990-91, eight years after being drafted, serving as the back-up goalie to Ed Belfour. Under the tutelage of goaltending coach Vladislav Tretiak, Hasek worked hard in an unheralded role.
A 1992 trade to the Buffalo Sabres gave Hasek the opportunity to emerge as a number one netminder, although he began as understudy to Grant Fuhr, but following an injury to Fuhr, Hasek positioned himself as a starter and never let go. In 1994, he won his first of six Vezina Trophies as the league's premier goaltender, shared the Jennings Trophy (nest team goals-against average) with Fuhr and was runner-up for the Hart Trophy as the NHL's most valuable performer. In 1995, he again won the Vezina and was a finalist for the Hart.
In 1996-97, Hasek again won the Vezina Trophy and also took home both the Hart Trophy and the Lester B. Pearson Award as the most valuable player as selected by the players. The next season, after recording 13 shutouts, Hasek again was awarded the Vezina and both the Hart and Pearson as the NHL's top performer. He became the first goalie in NHL history to win the Hart twice.
He won his third consecutive Vezina Trophy in 1998-99 with a career-best 1.87 goals-against average and a save percentage of .937. He was also a finalist for the both the Hart and Pearson trophies. That season, Hasek backstopped Buffalo to the Stanley Cup final against the Dallas Stars.
Although he considered retirement, Hasek returned to Buffalo in 1999-2000, but missed 40 games to injury. He bounced back incredibly, winning his sixth Vezina Trophy plus the Jennings Trophy in 2000-01.
The Sabres traded Hasek to the Detroit Red Wings prior to the start of the 2001-02 season. Wearing the winged-wheel, Hasek posted a career-high 41 wins to help Detroit finish first overall. The Red Wings went on to win the Stanley Cup over the Carolina Hurricanes. Hasek set an NHL record by collecting six shutouts through the post-season.
That summer, he announced his retirement, choosing to spend more time with his family. However, after Detroit's first-round loss to Anaheim in 2002-03, he notified the Red Wings that he would like to play again. Detroit already had Curtis Joseph and Manny Legace under contract, but welcomed back Hasek. In 2003-04, he was injured early in the season, and then announced that he was not going to play any further that season.
After his contract with Detroit expired, Hasek expressed a desire to win a Stanley Cup, and during the summer of 2004, he signed with the Ottawa Senators. That season was eliminated through a season-long lock-out, so Hasek returned to the Senators for the 2005-06 season. An injury during the Winter Olympics forced Hasek to most almost all of the remaining regular season contests, and after the Senators were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs, the team opted not to re-sign Hasek.
Instead, at the age of 41, Hasek returned for a second time with Detroit in 2006-07. The Red Wings finished first in the Western Conference but were eliminated in the conference final. He again contemplated retirement, but signed another contract for the 2007-08 season. He alternated with Chris Osgood through the season, winning the Jennings Trophy for best goals-against average, but during the first round of the playoffs, Osgood took over and played the remainder of the post-season, which culminated in a Stanley Cup celebration after defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins.
In June 2008, Dominik Hasek announced his retirement from the National Hockey League, although in April 2009, he announced a comeback to professional hockey and signed with HC Pardubice of the Czech Extraliga. A year later, he signed with Spartak Moscow of the KHL and played one final season, announcing his retirement in October 2012.
Through his 735 regular season games, Hasek recorded 389 wins (11th place all-time), 223 losses and 82 ties. His 81 shutouts placed Hasek in 6th place all-time. He finished with a goals-against average of 2.20, 8th best ever, and his save percentage was .922. A six-time NHL All-Star (1994, 1995, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001), Dominik Hasek compiled an extraordinary collection of NHL awards: two Hart Trophy wins (1997, 1998), two Lester B. Pears Awards (1997, 1998), six Vezina Trophies (1994, 1995, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001), three Jennings Trophies (1994, 2001, 2008) and Stanley Cup championships in 2002 and 2008.
His international play was equally impressive. He led the Czech Republic to a gold medal at the 1998 Olympic Winter Games and was awarded Best Goaltender, settling for bronze in 2006. Hasek was the Czech netminder for a silver medal at the World Championships in 1983 and bronze in 1987, 1989 and 1990, winning best goaltender award in 1987, 1989 and 1990. He was named Czech Hockey Player of the 20th Century in 1998, Czech Sportsperson of the Year in 1994, 1998 and 2001 and was awarded the Golden Hockey Stick in 1987, 1989, 1990, 1997 and 1998.