Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Dominik Hasek now a Senator

No, the former Red Wing has not been elected to the Canadian Parliament following the June 28 election. But Dominik Hasek has been signed by the Ottawa Senators after going on the market July 1. The Ottawa Senators introduced their new goaltender at a press conference 10 am EST in Ottawa. Hasek agreed to a one-year contract with an option for a second. The structure of the deal is such that Hasek will have a base salary of $2 million the first year and $3 million in the option year, along with a $4 million bonus if the Senators win the Cup. Hasek was set to earn $6 million last season before he stopped accepting paychecks. Happy Hasek:
"Ottawa was my first choice and I was very excited when my agent called back and said they were very interested in me. And today I'm here."
"I know this is a very good team and I believe with my help this team can win and that's why I made the choice to become an Ottawa Senator."
To make space for Hasek, the Senators traded Patrick Lalime to the St Louis Blues, leaving Ray Emery and Martin Prusek as backups. The Senators were Hasek's first choice, due to their skilled roster and his relationship with GM John Muckler, who worked in Buffalo when Hasek was a Sabre. The Wings had no interest in signing Hasek, who's failed attempt at a comeback nearly had them trading Cujo to make space for the Dominator that never showed up. In the end, the Wings see Hasek as a liability, and want nothing more of the goaltending controversy that plagued them last season. After 14 games-played last season, Hasek finished 8-3-0, with a 2.21 GAA and .907 save percentage. Dom and Dumber The stupidity snowballs. Not only did Hasek's decision to return to the game produce an injury-plagued 2003-2004 season (only 14 games played), but he has decided to further ride the storm and join the Ottawa Senators for the theoretical next season. I see part of his decision to play next season as an attempt to salvage his return from retirement. He has too much pride to allow last season's debacle to be the last chapter of his professional hockey career. In deciding to come out of retirement, Dominik Hasek was playing dice with his legacy. Instead of going off into the sunset of retirement as a 2002 Stanley Cup Champion with the Wings, he returned to the game over a year later, playing only Czech roller hockey as a forward in between. He promised the Wings and their fans that he would be ready, that his physique and endurance were still there. Reliving a year of hell... As an avid Wings fan, I remember listening to the press conference when Dominik announced his return last summer:
"I now feel that I have achieved a better balance in my life, and I have more to contribute to the game. My batteries are recharged, and I have the fire for competing for the Cup again."
In hindsight, I must ask, just what kind of batteries did he employ? Just so I don't ever make my own use of them. After the initial seconds of delight, I began to question whether he would be ready to play in the NHL again and why exactly he was returning. He had only been playing inline hockey the past year, and as a forward. There were reports that his business ventures were doing poorly, and he was in need of quick money. Then, Hasek's legal problems came to light later in the summer, the result of an altercation in his inline hockey league in the Czech Republic. The prosecutor dropped the charges for lack of evidence of cause of bodily harm, but the black cloud remained over his head. Hasek played only 14 games during the 2003-2004 regular season due to a nagging groin injury, and ended up throwing in the towel on the season and having groin surgery in late April. Hasek hurt the Wings in not living up to the high expectations, throwing Cujo into a blender, and hurting locker room chemistry that pitted Hasek supporters against those of Cujo. There was no goaltender certainty for the Wings in a season that had Dominik Hasek, Curtis Joseph, Manny Legace, and Marc Lamothe all taking turns between the pipes. And with Dominik Hasek forcing himself on the Wings, who didn't want to risk him playing for the rival Avalanche, management breached the trust of Curtis Joseph, who left Toronto with tears in his eyes to become the number one goaltender in Hockeytown. Cujo went from pre-season ankle surgery, to the trading block as he recovered, to the Grand Rapids Griffins, back up to Detroit to step in for a wounded Hasek, to more ankle problems, to Manny Legace starting the 2004 playoffs, to allowing only 2 goals in 2 games, but taking two losses in Games 5 and 6 of the Wings/Flames series. This year of hell ends in the present, with a bittersweet divorce. After the Wings were hungry for another season with Dom following the 2002 Cup win, they are now totally uninterested in his services. I was at the 2002 Cup parade, and remember the "one more year" chants when Hasek's car went by. In Hart Plaza, Ken Daniels answered more of the chants by calling Hasek to come to the microphone and say "yes." Unfortunately, he declined to commit to anything, and soon after, retired. The 2003 playoffs left the Wings winless in a four-game sweep by the Mighty Ducks, and Dominik finally gave us the "one more year." Too bad it was a year late. The aura of Dominik Hasek is now largely lost. Goalie Formerly Known as Dom After retiring in 2002 as an immortal goaltender who just won the Stanley Cup, the also six-time Vezina winner decided to return to the game. Unfortunately, in doing so, he has returned to Earthly-stature. Although he could still be the greatest goaltender in the world, if the game were played in a vacuum free of age and injury, this has been called into question as a direct result of the 2003 return. His reputation and image were tarnished, and now he drives on the bumpy road of return, in search of his previous stature. His pride keeps him from throwing in the towel again. I partially understand why he is coming back for another season, since he doesn't want the last chapter of his professional career to be an embarrassing 14 game season in which he spent more time in the press box than on the ice. For his sake, I hope that he gets in top shape before the theoretical 2004-2005 season, as #39 is now 39 years old and he can't afford another injury-plagued outing. Man of Honor The most honorable thing Hasek did during the whole debacle was refuse his inflated salary after being unable to play for months. He didn't pull a Uwe Krupp and gut the Wings for all they were worth based on contract legalities. He made a honest and moral decision, and gave the Wings back the money he felt he hadn't earn. Hard Feelings Aside Although I am bitter for what Hasek did to the Wings most recently, I do not forget what he did for us in 2002. I wish Hasek well and hope that he is able to regain some pride. I wish that he could've either came back for the 2002-2003 season or stayed retired, but it's time to move on now. Good luck Dom!


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