Tonawanda News — BUFFALO — It's been 13 years since he last stopped pucks for the Buffalo Sabres and six years since he last suited up for a National Hockey League team.
Yet as Dominik Hasek stood facing reporters Friday inside First Niagara Center, he and even some of the working media couldn't help but grin with arguably the best goaltender in Sabres' history back in town.
Tonight, Hasek will become the newest member of the Buffalo Sabres Hall of Fame in a ceremony prior to the game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. It's the first of two planned honors for "The Dominator." The team also announced Friday that next season, on a date to be determined, Hasek's No. 39 jersey will be lifted to the rafters as the franchise's seventh retired number.
As he smiled, Hasek admitted not taking part in an English language interview in a long time. Through his fractured sentences and undeniable Czech accent, Hasek's happiness was clear.
"I am very excited to be invited to Buffalo... to go into the Buffalo Sabres Hall of Fame, to be among these (41) people," said Hasek. "Very appreciated. And of course, to be back in Buffalo to meet and to see some friends and people I work with and spend such a great time. So (to) always go back to Buffalo, it means something for me. The nine years I spent here is something I never forget."
After coming to the Sabres in August 1992 in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks, Hasek spent nine seasons winning the hearts of Sabres fans and intriguing the entire National Hockey League with his often acrobatic and unorthodox goaltending style.
In his 491 games played for Buffalo, Hasek won 234 of them. He recorded 55 shutouts, a team record, including 13 in one season, also a team high to this day. He also continues to hold the Sabres' records for goals-against average for a single season (1.87) and for a career (2.22).