Hasek and Buffalo work at saving relationship


DALLAS -- Dominik Hasek should own Buffalo the way Michael Jordan owns Chicago. Or John Elway owns Denver. Or Troy Aikman owns Dallas.

You would think he would never have to buy a dinner or a cocktail.

You would think his face would be plastered on billboards throughout the blue-collar city of slightly more than 300,000 in western New York.

But that's not the case.

Hasek, considered the world's best goalie, is a complex, mercurial perfectionist who seems to have an antagonistic relationship with Buffalo Sabres fans and the media.

They love him. They hate him.

And it varies from day to day, from opponent to opponent, from save to save.

"It surprises me," said Buffalo general manager Darcy Regier, "because the truth of the matter is that as far as superstars go, Dominik is very low-maintenance. I wish I had an answer, but I don't. It's disappointing.

"He loves playing [in Buffalo], but I think it's hard not to pay a lot of attention to his critics. I don't want to paint our city with one broad brush because there are a lot of people who love Dom, but there are factions that seem eager to take shots at him."

Hasek's bulging trophy case includes two Hart Trophies that he received for being the league's most valuable player and four Vezina Trophies given to the NHL's best goalie. He won a gold medal for leading the Czech Republic at the 1998 Nagano Games, in what was supposed to be a showdown between the NHL stars of Canada and the United States.

Buffalo's love affair with Hasek began to erode during the 1997 season, when he made public his dislike for coach Ted Nolan. Then, a sprained knee kept him out of the Sabres' last nine playoff games. That season ended with a second-round loss to Philadelphia in five games.

Nolan, an immensely popular coach, was fired in May, and Hasek received the blame. When members of the media questioned the legitimacy of his injury, Hasek's reputation took a severe blow.

NHL summary

Sabres 3, Stars 2, OT

Buffalo 0 0 2 1 -- 3

Dallas 1 0 1 0 -- 2

First period--1, Dallas, Hull 6 (Modano, Lehtinen), 10: 17 (pp). Penalties--Zubov, Dal (roughing), 6: 36; Satan, Buf (boarding), 8: 18; Patrick, Buf, double minor (high-sticking), 12: 46; Ward, Buf (interference), 19: 11.

Second period--None. Penalties--Varada, Buf (goalie interference), 4: 53; Zhitnik, Buf (interference), 7: 07; Ward, Buf (roughing), 9: 34; Ludwig, Dal (hooking), 12: 21; Matvichuk, Dal (interference), 16: 33.

Third period--2, Buffalo, Barnes 5 (Juneau, Smehlik), 8: 33. 3, Buffalo, Primeau 3 (Zhitnik, Smehlik), 13: 37 (pp). 4, Dallas, Lehtinen 8 (Modano, Zubov), 19: 11. Penalties--Sydor, Dal (ob.-tripping), 12: 10; McKee, Buf (charging), 14: 17.

Overtime--5, Buffalo, Woolley 4 (Brown), 15: 30. Penalties--Zhitnik, Buf (hooking), 6: 41; Sanderson, Buf (boarding), 9: 06.

Shots on goal--Buffalo 5-4-10-5--24. Dallas 11-12-7-7--37. Power-play opportunities--Buffalo 1 of 4; Dallas 1 of 10. Goalies--Buffalo, Hasek 12-2 (37 shots-35 saves). Dallas, Belfour 12-6 (24-21). A--17,001 (16,928).

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