Darren Eliot
Monday June 9th, 2008

Dominik Hasek's announced retirement shouldn't surprise anyone. When your moniker is The Dominator and you no longer are, you get out. With nothing else to prove and little else to give, you get out. And if you are one of the fortunate few, you go out on a Stanley Cup-winning team, as did Hasek.

Granted, it wasn't a playoff run of his making, but Hasek's regular season play was certainly part of the team's success. Yet, his personal stumble in the first round against Nashville and subsequent spot at the end of the bench for the rest of the postseason probably made this day imminent. As he said, "I feel I can no longer compete at the highest level. I walk away with no regrets." Nor should he have any regrets. Hasek backstopped the Red Wings to the 2002 Stanley Cup, and before his time in Detroit, he won six Vezinas and two MVP trophies when he truly did dominate.

To me though, Hasek's legacy is rooted in how he did things beyond his Hall-of-Fame assuring numbers. He was a supreme scrambler and even so his original set up and reading of the play were textbook. He was slender in stature, but traffic never seemed to bother him. And lest we forget, he overcame the last bastion of prejudice in the NHL by proving that a European goaltender could succeed long-term in the NHL. On that front, Dominik Hasek was the first to star in the NHL.

Originality beyond Eurostar status flowed to his on-ice approach. His style was inimitable, yet many of his moves are commonplace now. He was the first in this league to drop his stick and cover the puck with the blocker, using the advantage of the glove behind the protective front to firmly and quickly pick up the puck. He introduced the '"cartwheel" save whereby he would spin his pads around his body and in the opposite direction of the puck, using his backward momentum while on the ice and in need of getting to a bid at the opposite post. And on deke attempts, Hasek routinely moved first, lunging forward at the attacker, thus taking away the shot option. Then, with chin on the ice -- long a telltale sign of a goaltender being down and out -- he would flair a pad to each post in a V-formation to deny the deke left or right.

Those unconventional elements are now on display throughout the league on a nightly basis as goalies everywhere took note and added what worked for them from Hasek's creative repertoire. Which is far different from saying there are Hasek emulators out there -- because there aren't any. Won't be, either. It's one thing to add a piece of Hasek to your goaltending tableau; it is quite another when you put them all together into a singular vision of the position.

That's what Dominik Hasek did. That's why he is a true original -- one of the ten best goaltenders of all-time, with no European modifier required.

Let the debate begin.

Darren Eliot is TV analyst and Hockey Development Liaison for the Atlanta Thrashers. He also appears on Versus playoff broadcasts and Westwood One radio.

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