TAMPA, Fla. – Legendary goaltender Dominik Hasek will be inducted into the Buffalo Sabres Hall of Fame in a ceremony prior to the March 29 game against Tampa Bay in First Niagara Center, the team announced Thursday.
Hasek will become the Hall’s 42nd member, but the ceremony will not include a retirement of his No. 39 jersey. Most observers feel that honor will be bestowed upon Hasek at some time in the future, but the Sabres Hall is a separate honor from joining the franchise’s Rafters Club. Hasek is eligible for the Hockey Hall of Fame this year and is expected to be a first-ballot inductee.
New Sabres goaltender Michal Neuvirth told reporters here Thursday that Hasek was his idol growing up in the Czech Republic and that made his trade from Washington on Wednesday an attractive point.
“The first thing that came in my mind was Dominik Hasek was here and I was a big fan of him when I was a kid,” Neuvirth said. “I was a big fan of Buffalo.
“He was a hero for me. Same country. All the games I watched were the Buffalo games because of him. He’s a legend back home.”
Hasek for Stephane Beauregard, a trade with Chicago on Aug. 7, 1992, remains one of the most lopsided in NHL history. When his Buffalo career ended in 2001, Hasek owned team records for most games played (491), wins (234), shutouts (55) and lowest career goals-against average (2.22).
Hasek appeared in a career-high 72 games in the 1997-98 season, setting a team record with 13 shutouts. In the 1998-99 Stanley Cup final season, Hasek had a career-best 1.87 GAA and .937 save percentage.
Hasek won Stanley Cups with Detroit in 2002 and 2008. When he retired from the NHL in 2008, he had 389 career wins and had highest career save percentage (.922), most games played by a European-born goaltender (735), most career shutouts (81) and lowest career goals-against average (2.13).
As part of his Hall induction, Hasek will be the guest speaker March 28 at noon during the team’s final Power Play Luncheon of the season in the Lexus Club. Tickets are $40 for individuals and $350 for tables of 10. They can be purchased at Sabres.com.
Neuvirth said he was surprised to be traded because he wasn’t told until about 3:30 p.m., a half-hour after Wednesday’s deadline. He said he felt the Sabres gave him a better chance to compete in goal than Washington, which is pushing for the playoffs and has been disappointed in his performances this year.
“There were great years in Washington and great times,” said Neuvirth, who briefly worked out following the pregame skate and makes his Buffalo debut tonight at Florida. “This is a new opportunity. My goal is to be a No. 1 goalie in the NHL, and I feel like I can get the opportunity here. I’m going to give all my best and work hard every day.”
Neuvirth chose to wear No. 34 after wearing 30 in Washington. The Sabres tweeted Wednesday night he would wear 30 here, prompting a spirited discussion and backlash on Twitter from fans disappointed the organization would issue Ryan Miller’s number less than a week after he was traded.
A Sabres spokesman said the tweet was an error made because the player’s number on his previous team is auto-generated if it is available. Neuvirth was listed as No. 30 on the official media notes for the game, but the team and player consulted on his new number.
Just before the opening faceoff, the Lightning made a much-rumored announcement that Steven Stamkos has been named the 10th captain in franchise history. Stamkos drew a huge ovation when announced in the starting lineup after missing 45 games with a broken leg, and the fans erupted when the captaincy was revealed.
The building swarmed with media for the return of Stamkos and the debut of former New York Rangers captain Ryan Callahan, acquired Wednesday for Tampa captain Martin St. Louis.
“Now that all this is over, we can kind of breathe a sigh of relief,” Stamkos said. “Marty’s gone, the trade deadline is over, I’m coming back. This is our group. That was the message today.”
Callahan said he was surprised he couldn’t get a deal done with the Rangers.
“I thought at the end of the day both parties couldn’t agree on something that worked for both of us,” Callahan said. “That’ s part of the business. They felt they needed to move on so it’s time for me to move on and start a new chapter.”
Former Canisius College star Cory Conacher, claimed on waivers Wednesday from Ottawa, will join the team today and make his Buffalo debut tonight. He was flying from Edmonton and had to settle immigration issues in Ottawa. … The Sabres led after the first period for just the 10th time in 62 games. They were 3-5-1 in the first nine. … The Sabres have dressed five different backup goaltenders in the last five games – Jhonas Enroth, Ryan Miller, HarborCenter employee Ryan Vinz, Jaroslav Halak and Neuvirth.