|Dominik Hašek shaking Wayne|
Gretzky's hand after the 1998 Olympic
semifinal. Photo: http://exhokej.blog.cz.
Hašek joined the top Czechoslovak league at age 16 and played nine years for his hometown Pardubice team and one year for Dukla Jihlava before heading to North America in 1990. At the time of his departure, he had been named the top goaltender in the league five straight years. After splitting two years between the Chicago Blackawks and their IHL affiliate in Indianapolis, he was traded to the Buffalo Sabres, where he emerged as the team's top goaltender in 1994. In Buffalo, he won the Vezina Trophy six times as the NHL's top goaltender and won the Hart Trophy as league MVP in 1997 and 1998. He also led the Sabres to an appearance in the 1999 Stanley Cup Final, where they lost to the Dallas Stars in six games. He signed as a free agent with the Detroit Red Wings in 2001.
Hašek first retired after winning the Stanley Cup with Detroit in 2002 at age 37. After a year off, he returned to Detroit for the 2003-04, but injuries and a crowded Detroit crease that also included Curtis Joseph and Manny Legace limited Hašek to only 14 games that season. After not playing during the NHL lockout, many were surprised when he came back to play for the Ottawa Senators at age 40 in 2005. He again ended up back in Detroit, but when he was relegated to the backup position behind Chris Osgood for Detroit's 2008 Stanley Cup championship, his career definitely seemed finished. Not quite.
He returned home to play for Eaton Pardubice in 2009-10, backstopping them to the Czech championship, and then for Spartak Moscow last season, where he led the KHL with seven shutouts, proving that he is still capable of playing pro hockey.
However, after a year off, he will be 47 years old at the start of the 2012-13 season, which might cause some to question whether or not he could still play at a high level. Hašek doesn't share those doubts.
"Although I am four years older than when I finished in Detroit (editor's note: actually three), I didn't notice any difference in my body. Already in my head I'm deliberating plans for next year. How I should train. What to look for, what to add, where to cut back. I want to try again for at least a year."