Can we all say that was loooooooooooooooong overdue?? (Using my Rock voice) Finallyyyyyyyyyyyy, the Dom has come back to Buffaaaaaaalooooooo. I don't know about you, but does Dom ever age? Not only does he still play hockey in Russia, but he looks exactly the same. He even wore the same skin, tight jeans that he had on in 1993. Anyways, I was happy as punch to have Dom back in Buffalo. He was the same old Dom. The guy talks like a robot and goes on and on...and you really have no clue what he just said. However, even though he's got the Mr. Auto-roboto voice, I was moved at the ovation that the HSBC faithful gave to him. Finally, on March 19, 2011, I think the Sabres fans who couldn't get over Dom, finally forgave him. Like Russell Crowe coming back to Rome in Gladiator, Dom's exile was finally over.
Frankly, I thought it was pretty messed up that it took this long for the Sabres to honor him.
Yes, I get all the distractions that happened with Dom. Some people feel that he got Ted Nolan fired. Some feel that he quit on the team in the 1997 playoffs. Yes, he did ask to be traded in 2001. However, in all honesty, those distractions should have been a mute point. The guy was the greatest player in Sabres history. Once he retired the first time, there should have been a ceremony to retire his jersey in the following home opener. I don't care about the Ted Nolan crap. Frankly, if it wasn't for Hasek, the team would never have come close to winning the division in 1997. A major reason why Nolan got fired was because he totally alienated the Sabres front office. What? You don't think his attitude had something to do with it? There's a reason why it took him almost 10 years to get back into the NHL.
As for the quitting thing....eh. Bucky Gleason use to always say that Dom was the hardest working Sabres player he ever saw. Frankly, I think he just wanted to be 100% when he played or better yet, he was just really hurt. As for demanding a trade? Look, the Sabres had just traded Peca because they didn't want to give him a new deal and there were rumblings that they were going to cut some payroll. Hasek had done enough as far as I was concerned. Hell, he had guided this team to the Stanley Cup Finals with Brian Holzinger and Miro Satan. He had done enough.
Anyways, I don't know what the hold up was. Did Tom Golisano not want to pay for a $900 flight from Prague? I remember a few months back, The Bulldog had run a topic about Hasek, and everyone who called into the show pretty much crapped on Dom. However, to everyone's surprise, Larry Quinn actually called into the show and said that Dom was awesome and a great guy. So, it didn't seem like the old regime hated him all that much.
Look, Dom was incredible. His stats were mind-boggling and the teams he played on for the most part were average at best. Actually, the 2001 squad was better than advertised. But those teams from 1995-2000 were crap. I'll never forget staying up past my bedtime when the Sabres beat the Devils at 1:30am in the playoffs and Dom had the shutout with 70 saves. I remember when Dom had over 40 saves against the Senators in Game 1 of the 1999 playoffs. His performance totally got into the heads of the #2 seeded Sens. Just YouTube his highlights if you haven't. The slinky was good...scary good. The guy would use every single part of his body to make saves. He'd throw his stick down and make saves with his groin or toes. I remember once, he used the top of his head to deflect a shot. The guy was awesome.
I remember last year, some fans tried putting Miller in the same breath as Dom. Sorry, but you can't even come close to that. Miller had one great season, while Dom had 7 of those years.
Anyways, I didn't want to make this post all about how we should have honored Dom years ago. Instead, the point I want to hammer out, is how the Sabres new regime is tying up loose ends that were left by Tom Golisano and John Rigas. Everything from the alumni reunion to free programs to a Sabres fight song, have been greeted with a standing ovation. This is the sort of ownership group that I've been dreaming of for decades. In the last 2 weeks, they have done more to celebrate the 40th anniversary than Tom Golisano and Larry Quinn could ever think of (or pay out).
The Sabres need to do more nights like these. Not only is it beneficial for the fans, but I think you'll notice that there's an extra step in the players. It has been too long since the Sabres have been able to celebrate their history, without having the fans buy retro jerseys.
Speaking of history, there's no way in hell another goalie will rewrite Dom's record book.