One of the world’s best goaltenders ever has had a lot of personal success – six Vezina Trophies, two league MVP awards – and earned tens of millions of dollars.
He’s won with teams, too, leading the Czech Republic to gold in the 1998 Olympics and helping the Detroit Red Wings win the 2002 Stanley Cup.
When Ottawa decided last summer that it didn’t want him back after an injury-plagued season, he could have retired again knowing his spot in the Hall of Fame was secure.
But a big part of what has made Hasek an all-time great – an insatiable appetite to compete – brought him back to Detroit at age 42 with a bargain-basement incentive-laden contract.
He made US$750,000 during the regular season.
If Hasek helps Detroit get past the Calgary Flames in the first round, he’ll earn a $450,000 bonus; another $450,000 if the Red Wings advance to the conference finals; and $200,000 more if he hoists his second Stanley Cup and the 11th in franchise history.
“I didn’t come back to play and to make money,” Hasek said. “I came back because I want to compete for the Stanley Cup, and to win the Stanley Cup. I didn’t have a chance because of my injuries and the lockout the last four years and now I am back and I’m excited about it.
“I was waiting a long, long time to be back in the playoffs.”
He was five minutes away from his 13th career post-season shutout Thursday, when the Red Wings routed Calgary 4-1 in Game 1 of their first-round series.
Hasek looked a lot like he did in his previous playoff appearance in 2002, when he had six shutouts in the playoffs en route to a Stanley Cup that seemed to complete his career and led to his one-season retirement.
But the Flames blame themselves for allowing Hasek to get too comfortable, needing to make just 19 saves, while Detroit peppered Miikka Kiprusoff with 46 shots.
“We have to make Dominik work a lot harder than we did,” Calgary coach Jim Playfair said Friday. “It’s pretty simple what our goal is. We need to cut down the shots against, and make Dominik work a lot harder.”
Game 2 in the best-of-seven series is Sunday in Detroit before the series shifts to Calgary.
When Hasek signed last July, however, eyebrows were raised and the move was critically questioned.
He retired shortly after winning a Cup in his first season with the Red Wings only to come back a year later, creating an awkward situation for them because they signed Curtis Joseph to replace him.
Then, a groin injury limited Hasek to just 14 games during the 2003-04 season and after the lockout, the same ailment knocked him out of the Olympics last year and from the Senators’ lineup.
“I’d be lying if I said I was sure how things would work out at the beginning of the year because of his injuries and other things,” teammate Kirk Maltby said.
Hasek showed again that when healthy, he’s still one of hockey’s top goalies.
He won 38 of 56 games – giving him 362 career victories over a 14-year career in Chicago, Buffalo, Detroit and Ottawa – and allowed an average of just two goals.
“He reads plays very well. He anticipates,” Flames star Jarome Iginla said before not getting a shot on Hasek in Game 1. “You think you have him beat, but he never gives up and gets some part of his body across. Not too long ago, I had a pass across the crease and I thought it was in for sure, but he made the save.”
As soon as Red Wings general manager knew Hasek had a burning desire to play nine months ago and wanted to be back in Detroit, his search for a No. 1 goalie was over.
“The only question we had was about his health,” Holland said. “And, he took care of that by coming into camp about 10 pounds lighter and by stretching before and after he’s on the ice.
“Great players often want to leave for the last time on the ice, and he wasn’t able to do that his last two seasons. We gave him one more chance to do that and he gives us a chance to reach our ultimate goal.”