Dominik Hasek Not Always Popular With Buffalo Sabres Fans

As the Buffalo Sabres continue to struggle, any distraction is welcomed by the fans. Along those lines, Dominik Hasek receiving his Hall Of Fame ring ahead of Monday’s induction definitely qualifies.

During his time in Buffalo the Pardubice, Czechoslovakia native earned a reputation as one of the NHL’s best between the pipes. In fact, Hasek’s performances are often credited with leading the way for more European goaltenders to play in the NHL.

The Sabres only failed to qualify for the playoffs once during Hasek’s tenure in Buffalo, which include a run to the Stanley Cup final in 1999. Overall, “The Dominator” recorded a 271-200-70 record (including playoffs) during his ten years in Western New York.

Not Always So Popular

Hasek was extremely popular with the fans in Buffalo (which was only enhanced after signing a $1 million cheque that enabled underprivileged kids to play hockey in the Hasek’s Heroes program). Interestingly though, this wasn’t always the case.

After some initial success, which included winning two Vezina Trophies, Hasek encountered major challenges during the 1996-97 season. The genesis of these challenges was an ongoing conflict with head coach Ted Nolan.

Even though the Sabres eventually qualified for the postseason, the campaign was overshadowed by the rift between Hasek and Nolan. Unsurprisingly, this resulted in a tense atmosphere in the clubhouse, with players being split between the two sides.

Controversial Injury

As you can imagine, the media took every opportunity to report on the internal strife, with matters coming to a head during the Sabres first round series against the Ottawa Senators. Hasek removed himself in the second period of game three, after suffering a knee injury.

Dominik Hasek
(Kevin Hoffman-US PRESSWIRE)

Despite being tested and pronounced as day-to-day by doctors, several players and the media speculated Hasek was using the injury as an excuse to bail on the team. Buffalo News columnist Jim Kelley wrote an article, detailing the goaltenders fallout with Nolan, while also questioning his mental toughness.

When Kelley approached Hasek for an interview a few nights later, the 1983 Chicago Blackhawks draft pick snapped. He shouted at the Buffalo News journalist, before pushing him and ripping his shirt.

Fortunately, several bystanders stepped in before the incident escalated any further. Hasek would eventually give Kelley a formal apology, before being handed a three-game suspension and $10,000 fine by the NHL.

Backlash From Buffalo Sabres Fans

After the season, General Manager John Muckler was fired, despite being named “Executive of the Year”. It transpired that he had also regularly feuded with Nolan.

Unsurprisingly, Hasek sided with Muckler, advising in an interview that he felt the Sabres would benefit from replacing Nolan. Whether this influenced the decision or not, Nolan was only offered a one-year contract extension by Muckler’s replacement, a certain Darcy Regier.

Nolan rejected the offer and left the franchise, angering a lot of people, who blamed Hasek. The following season, he was booed incessantly by Sabres fans, prompting arena staff to play a tape of crowds cheering to attempt to balance it out.

All’s Well That End Well

Fortunately, as the season wore on, Hasek gradually won back the fans with his outstanding play, which resulted in yet another Vezina Trophy. He also took home the Hart Trophy for league MVP, becoming just the sixth goaltender to even win this award. (Hasek went on to become the only goaltender to win the Hart Trophy twice.)

By the time Hasek was traded to the Detroit Red Wings, he held over 25 franchise records for Buffalo, including most wins, most shutouts and lowest goals against average. This eventually led to his being inducted into the Sabres Hall of Fame last season:

Today, Hasek’s feud with Nolan is seen as nothing more than a minor blip on the radar. It just goes to show time is a great healer, although having a successful career also helps expedite the recovery process.

9 thoughts on “Dominik Hasek Not Always Popular With Buffalo Sabres Fans”

  1. @ Bobby – I agree with only your last point. As for the parentheses…they can go wherever the author pleases, can they not? (Not that I care much for your feedback). See what I did there? Your post has nothing to do with the content of the piece. Go troll elsewhere.

    @ Kel – What’s with the sour grapes here?! The article neither demeans Dom nor the Sabres. It merely highlighted some of the very obvious and semi-public feuding that was rife during that time period for the Sabres. I don’t get your post at all.

    @ Paul – Thanks for this piece….it was actually fun to briefly re-live what now seems like a GLORIOUS period of Sabres history! Mid to late 90’s would’ve been a pretty rough time without Hasek between the pipes. I’ll never forget how Nolan got the best out of his players nor will I forget how many nights the team rode Dom’s back to a W!

  2. I have to laugh how a dumb rumor continues without any facts. Nolan did not sleep with Haseks wife. Hasek had allegiance to Muckler and Nolan tried to undermine Mucklers power. Nolan had a lot of young players and would bring player personnel moves and private front office dealings into the locker room,Hasek stuck up for Muckler. These are facts. Nolan is and awful coach, he fueled a young Sabres team withplaying with heart and giving 100%. Hasek made that team and Nolan is a coach who doesn’t teach X’s and O’s. He doesn’t watch film and the only reason he is still coach is the coach is the Sabres couldn’t afford another PR screw up after LAFONTAINE. Tepo Numminem who was assistant coach last year told terry Pegula how he could allow a moron like Nolan to be the head coach. There is so many up knowledgeable people out there who would stop going to Sabres game if Nolan was fired!so the Sabres are stuck,FOR NOW.

  3. @Kel. A couple of things to mull over.

    1) At what point in the article did I question his credentials as one of, if not the, greatest goalies of all time?
    2) Gossip generally refers to unproven rumors. Are you saying the fallout didn’t happen with Nolan, Jim Kelley and the fans?

    Overall, I have no problem with anyone disagreeing with my article. However, the fact you immediately resorted to attempting to insult me as your means of a reply, speaks volumes about your own “credentials” as a man. Grow up.

  4. I think we have strayed off topic here, the article is about the greatest goalie to ever play in the NHL. There is only one Wayne Gretzkey and there is only one Domonik Haskek.

  5. Written by a “man” who probably never played a game in his life. Dom was the greatest ever to suit up between the pipes. All your drama and little gossip is crap. The man carried this team on his back and lead us to wins when we did not deserve them. You sir are a pathetic writer that is better suited for Jerry Springer stories.

  6. Bobby,

    Doubt my credentials all you want. Either way, they have enabled me to cover numerous pro sporting events over the last eight years, something for which I’m eternally grateful.

    Thank you for your “concern” though. However, you may be better served putting this type of effort into your own career. Yes, there were a couple of tying errors, put that’s exactly what they were – typing errors. Everyone makes mistakes, even you.

    Overall though, I genuinely appreciate your comments. Thanks for stopping by.

  7. You made a few basic errors in your writing, Paul. Are you sure you have a journalism degree? You may want to ask for your money back. You don’t need an apostrophe after “trophies” in the “Not Always So Popular” section. You don’t need the parentheses around “Hasek went on to become the only goaltender to win the Hart Trophy twice.” Also, “which was only enhanced after signing a $1 million cheque that enabling underprivileged kids to play hockey in the Hasek’s Heroes program” – you can either say “that enabled” or “enabling”. You don’t combine them. As a person with a journalism degree, I doubt your credentials with such basic errors.

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