At the age of 46, Dominik Hasek was still playing hockey. He put on his goalie pads for the final time Feb. 27, 2011 in the KHL.
At the age of 49, “the Dominator” is expected to be part of the class of 2014 at the Hockey Hall of Fame, which will be announced Monday. Though nothing is guaranteed, the six-time Vezina Trophy-winner should be a lock.
“For me it’s a no-brainer,” former Buffalo Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said earlier this year.
Hasek won one Stanley Cup as a starter with the Detroit Red Wings in 2002, then split time with Chris Osgood and became the backup in the playoffs for the 2008 title. He came close to the Cup in 1999 with Buffalo, only to be beaten by the Dallas Stars on Brett Hull’s foot-in-the-crease overtime goal.
Hasek’s best years came with the Sabres, when he had seven straight seasons with a save percentage of .930 or higher. He finished with 234 career regular-season victories.
Veteran goaltender Tomas Vokoun “knew all along” Hasek would be great from watching him play in their native Czech Republic.
“It took him a little bit just because of his style and all that to convince people here,” Vokoun said in a phone interview. “I definitely consider him, if he’s not the best, one of the top three to ever play. … He definitely deserves to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.”
Swedish centre Peter Forsberg is also expected to get the call to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. American-born centre Mike Modano leads the other new candidates and is the most likely to be inducted, ahead of three-time Cup-winner and first-ballot dark horse Mark Recchi.
Forsberg, who began his career with the Quebec Nordiques following the blockbuster Eric Lindros trade with the Philadelphia Flyers, went on to win two Cups with the Colorado Avalanche. He finished with 885 points in 708 regular-season games as his career was cut short by foot injuries.
With 1,374 points over 21 seasons, Modano became the most prolific American-born scorer in NHL history.
Late coach Pat Burns remains a candidate in the “builder” category, a year after Fred Shero was posthumously elected 38 years after leading the Flyers to back-to-back Cups. Burns, a three-time Jack Adams Award winner as coach of the year, died in November 2010 at the age of 58.
This is the first year John Davidson is serving as chairman of the Hockey Hall of Fame selection committee, replacing Jim Gregory. Bobby Clarke, David Poile and Luc Robitaille were appointed to the committee for the first time.
Clarke’s addition raised the question of whether Lindros would stand a better chance of being elected. Despite a contentious relationship with the Lindros family, the longtime Flyers general manager is considered a proponent of his Hall of Fame case.
Lindros has similar numbers to Forsberg — 865 points in 760 games over 13 seasons — and won the Hart Trophy as league MVP in 1994-95.
The three-time Canadian Olympian and world junior standout’s resume isn’t as Hall of Fame-worthy as Hasek’s. The goaltender is all but certain to be inducted Nov. 10.
“I appreciate it, it’s very nice to be among all these big players,” Hasek said recently when asked about impeding election to the Hall of Fame. “I appreciate to be one day, maybe, in the Hockey Hall of Fame, however … it was never my goal when I was playing hockey.”