Dominik Hasek has made it official. He's back in the NHL. Tuesday morning, the Detroit Red Wings announced the veteran goaltender has ended his one-year retirement and will return to the Detroit lineup for the 2003-04 season. NHL.com's Phil Coffey says the move leaves the Red Wings with an embarrassment of riches in the net, at least temporarily...
Dominik Hasek, one of the game's greatest goaltenders, ended his one-year retirement from the NHL Tuesday, rejoining the Detroit Red Wings in a move that has been expected for more than a week.
"I'm here to announce my return to hockey," said Hasek in a conference call Tuesday morning.
Hasek said that he caught the bug to return to the sport after watching this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs. Less than two weeks after the New Jersey Devils raised the Cup, Hasek told Detroit coach Dave Lewis of his intention to return during a face-to-face meeting in Austria on June 17. He has not, however, revealed how long his return will last, saying Tuesday that he can not look past this season -- the last of his current contract.
"My primary motivation is to get back to the game and compete again," Hasek said. "After I retired, I felt I was not hungry anymore. Now, I feel my fire is back. I want to compete -- even against my teammates in practice. I still feel I have something to contribute to the game."
Hasek's return creates an immediate logjam in Detroit's crease.
After Hasek, 38, announced his retirement in the days after the Red Wings' 2002 Stanley Cup championship, Detroit aggressively courted, and eventually signed, top-notch goalie Curtis Joseph to a three-year contract to serve as Hasek's replacement. The Wings also have Manny Legace, considered by many NHL observers to be the best backup goaltender in the business today.
The Red Wings last month picked up Hasek's $8 million option for the 2003-04 season, insuring that Hasek could not become an unrestricted free agent and sign with another team.
Joseph, meanwhile, has a no-trade clause in his contract, but there has been speculation that he might waive it to allow Detroit General Manager Ken Holland some flexibility in addressing the glut of goaltenders.
Last year, Joseph went 34-19-6 with a 2.49 goals-against average and five shutouts for the Red Wings, who finished second in the Western Conference standings. Things turned ugly for Joseph and the Wings in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Despite posting a 2.08 GAA, Joseph received heavy blame after the Wings were shockingly ousted in a four-game sweep by the seventh-seeded Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.
Holland said Tuesday that he has not spoken yet to Joseph, or the player's agent, Don Meehan, about waiving the no-trade clause.
"I plan on talking to Curtis this afternoon," Holland said. "I know that this has been a very difficult time for Curtis."
Despite that, Holland said he wants to address the situation as soon as possible, acknowledging it could become a distraction to the team if it is allowed to drag on throughout the summer.
"Obviously, ideally, I'd like to get something done as quickly as possible," Holland said. "But, that is easier said than done. I'm going to have to try to be creative with other teams to get something done."
Holland says he knows which goalie he plans to move, but will not make that decision public yet. Tuesday, Hasek reiterated that it is his intention to come back and play only for the Red Wings.
"I know about the situation with Cujo and his no-trade," Hasek said. "However, my desire is to play with the Detroit Red Wings. I want to play with the Red Wings and that is my goal."
Hasek, known as the "Dominator," originally decided to retire after winning the 2002 Stanley Cup, the only honor he had not earned during his brilliant 13 seasons in the NHL. In fact, he helped engineer a trade to Detroit, from Buffalo, in the summer before the 2001-02 season with the express purpose of improving his chance to get his name on the sport's most coveted trophy.
That plan worked to perfection as Hasek compiled a 41-15-8 during the 2001-02 regular season for the talent-laden Wings. In the postseason, Hasek went 16-7 with a stellar 1.86 goals-against average and a League-leading six shutouts as Detroit beat upstart Carolina in a five-game Finals for the franchise's third Cup in seven years.
Despite not playing goal at any level since his Cup-clinching Game 5 victory in 2002, Hasek insists he's ready to return to top form.
According to Hasek, the Stanley Cup was one defining moment of an already unforgettable NHL career, matching the Olympic gold medal he earned by leading the Czech Republic's brilliant run in the 1998 Winter Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan.
In fact, Hasek admitted Tuesday that he has not played goal in an ice-hockey game, at any level, since the Wings claimed the Cup in Game 5 against the Hurricanes. In the past year, Hasek says he has played as a defenseman once a week in a men's league and also played as a skater in an in-line league.
Despite the inactivity, Hasek believes he can return to his former level of greatness. He insists he has stayed physically active, playing tennis and soccer, as well as bike riding, on a regular basis. He says he is currently eight pounds lighter than his playing weight during the 2002 Playoffs.
"Of course, there are no guarantees," Hasek said. "But, I know how I feel when I play tennis and other sports. I feel, if I practice every day like I used to, I can play at the highest level like I used to. I want to be the Dominator like I used to be."
During his initial stint in North America, Hasek built a legend that will one day land him in the Hall of Fame. He was already an accomplished international goalie, starring in the Czech league, before joining the Chicago Blackhawks in 1990-91.
Hasek turned his unorthodox style into unparalleled individual success, mostly with the Buffalo Sabres, who traded for the goalie in 1992.
Hasek won the Vezina Trophy six times, including an especially dominant three-year run from 1997-99. He also copped the Hart Trophy, awarded to the League's Most Valuable Player, two times -- an almost unheard of feat for a goaltender. He has been named to the NHL's First All-Star Team six times and has played in six NHL All-Star Games.
Returning to the NHL for a second go-round, Hasek carries a 288-189-80 mark with a 2.23 GAA and 61 career shutouts.
Hasek rejoins a Detroit team that looks markedly different from the one he left.
Not only is Joseph, for now, sharing the crease, but defenseman Derian Hatcher -- a mainstay with the Dallas Stars for the last decade -- signed a free-agent deal last week to join the Wings. Detroit might also be missing Sergei Fedorov, their superstar center, who is an unrestricted free agent. Fedorov has hinted that he will sign elsewhere.
Still, Hasek is excited to return to his most recent stomping grounds.
"I'm excited about coming back and looking forward to playing and practicing with my teammates and being back in a red jersey," said Hasek.
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