A little more than a year ago, his competitive fire doused by
sips of champagne from the Stanley Cup, Detroit Red Wings goalie
Dominik Hasek headed into the Czech sunset, a 37-year-old
retiree. He said that after winning six Vezina Trophies, two Hart
Trophies, an Olympic gold medal and, finally, the Cup, he had
nothing left to accomplish. He wanted to bring up his two
children and live as a national idol on his native soil.
Imagine Detroit general manager Ken Holland's surprise, then,
when Hasek's agent called in mid-May to say Hasek was
contemplating a comeback. "It came completely out of left field,"
Holland says. Though Hasek hadn't made it official as of
Monday--he was vacationing in Spain with his family last week and
couldn't be reached--the Red Wings think the notoriously
mercurial goalie is certain to return.
Hasek's retirement hasn't gone smoothly. He spent part of the
time playing as a forward in a Czech in-line league, and in May,
Hasek viciously cross-checked an opponent, sending the
player--who happened to be Hasek's 13-year-old son's hockey
coach--to the hospital with head injuries. Authorities are
investigating the Dominator on a charge of causing bodily harm.
Jail is unlikely, but Hasek's image has been tarnished at home.
On June 25 the Prague daily Lidove noviny wrote, "For a number of
people in the Czech Republic Hasek ... is now an arrogant and
brutal brawler." The chairman of the Czech Association of In-line
Hockey says he believes Hasek is seeking "asylum in the NHL."
Hasek could find it, given how appreciated he is in Detroit and
because, even at 38, he may be the world's best goalie. He's said
to be in fine shape, and when he retired his skills showed little
evidence of decline. Hasek's return will no doubt displace goalie
Curtis Joseph, whom the Wings signed to a three-year, $24 million
contract last summer. Detroit fans never warmed to Joseph and
blamed him for the team's first-round playoff exit. Holland must
get Joseph to relax the no-trade clause in his contract (page
124), but the Wings were so eager for Hasek's return that two
weeks ago, coach Dave Lewis traveled to Vienna to discuss the
details. Wings forward Darren McCarty speaks as if it's a done
deal. McCarty says, "I feel bad for CuJo." --Stephen Cannella