DETROIT >> The Detroit Red Wings weren’t on top of Dominik Hasek’s list of teams he wanted to play as he searched for that elusive Stanley Cup.
But in the end the team from Hockeytown won out.
In 2001, Hasek asked Buffalo general manager Darcy Regier to be dealt to a legitimate Cup contender. The first team on his list was the St. Louis Blues. Detroit was second.
“He was concerned about our age,” Wings general manager Ken Holland recalled. “Jim Nill and I went through the process of talking to him to convince him we’re a championship team. We pushed real hard.”
After a couple of one-hour conversations the Wings got the news they had hoped the next day when Hasek’s agent, Ritch Winter, called and said his client had decided on Detroit because he wanted to play with the likes of Steve Yzerman and Nicklas Lidstrom.
To complete the deal Detroit sent winger Slava Kozlov, a 2002 first-round pick and a conditional 2003 first-rounder, if they won the Cup, for the 37-year-old netminder.
“He was pushing 40, but it was a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Holland said.
On Monday, Hasek will more than likely join another elite group when the Hockey Hall of Fame class of 2014 is announced.
“His track record speaks for itself,” Kirk Maltby said. “Dom was in category by himself at the time. He was a world-class goalie. To add him to a team with the firepower we had …he had only one objective and that was to win the Stanley Cup.”
Hasek’s resume is impressive – six consecutive Vezina Trophies, given to the NHL’s top goalie; a two-time Hart Trophy winner, awarded to the league MVP; an Olympic gold medal.
“He was unique,” said fellow Czech native Jiri Fischer. “He was special. The bigger the game Dom played, the more confidence he gave us as a team.”
And what really made Hasek, who took a million dollar pay cut to join the Wings, unique was his ability to bounce back.
“Dom dug in mentally,” Holland said. “He was a tough, fierce competitor. Even though he was a little past his prime he was still a little better than everyone else. The great ones can defy Father Time.
“Between Dom, Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur, they were the three best goaltenders of their era and the history of the NHL,” Holland continued. “They revolutionized the art of goaltending.”
Hasek ranks 11th all-time in wins (389) and his .922 career save percentage is first among all goalies with at least 200 games.
“He’s the most competitive goalie I’ve ever been around,” Fischer said. “There are very few others in the history of the sport that can even come close.”
Fischer recalled Hasek conducting his own power skating sessions prior to practice without a goalie coach on the ice.
“Dom was just dedicated,” Fischer said. “His history of groin injuries he had in Buffalo it didn’t hinder his career at all. He embraced it. I’ve never seen a goalie prepare for each practice, make sure he was warm, make sure he had done his skating, his exercises and go right into the practice.”
“The one thing that always stood out was how he competed,” Draper said. “His practice habits made me a better player. He didn’t want anyone to score on him in practice.”
Draper recalled a practice where a bunch of grinders like him were practicing breakaways on Hasek.
“At the end of practice, he challenged us to a little game, the first to 10 goals or saves wins and he said he would give us seven goals,” Draper said. “We were all laughing because all we had to do was score three goals. He beat us 10-7. He made 10 straight saves. We were embarrassed. He’d give you seven goals and still expected to beat you. It shows the confidence and competitiveness he had. Or maybe he picked five shooters he knew couldn’t score.”
Hasek led the Sabres to the 1999 Cup finals, but lost in triple overtime to the Dallas Stars in Game 6 on a goal in triple overtime by Brett Hull.
He won the Cup with the Wings in 2002 and was a member of the 2008 Cup winning team, backing up Chris Osgood.
“Ken Holland made this very interesting statement a couple of years ago that a goalie makes the practice and that’s absolutely true,” Fischer said. “The better the goalie in practice, the better it is for all players, the harder it is to score and it keeps everybody on their toes.
“Dom was the most competitive practice goalie ever and that translated into the games,” Fischer added. “You can make an argument for several guys that would be the most dominate goalie of their era he’s certainly one of them.”
Mike Modano and Peter Forsberg are also expected to be named to the 2014 class.