Ice Hockey: Letter from New York: Hasek chases icy goal

When the news reached the fans outside the Marine Midland Arena that there were no more tickets for the Stanley Cup finals, they were not happy. So unhappy they picked up a metal barricade and tried to break down the doors. They chanted: "Hell no, we won't go!," an old anti-Vietnam War rallying cry.

They care about ice hockey in Buffalo, New York. Because of that, they care about a patch of muscle, tendon and other unspeakable things that lie between the belt and the boots of Dominik `The Dominator' Hasek, the very gifted individual who keeps goal for the Buffalo Sabres. Mr Hasek is by far the team's best player, indeed the best goalie in the world; and he may be all that stands between winning and losing the Stanley Cup for the first time in the team's history. To be precise, they care about his groin.

Mr Hasek's groin has been playing him up since February, causing him to miss several key games, including two in the play-offs that saw the Sabres defeat the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-1. The Sabres can win without him, but the fans would indubitably prefer that he be there tomorrow night when the team faces the Dallas Stars in the first game of the Stanley Cup Finals, even if they can only watch from the local branch of Hooters Restaurant.

Hasek, 34, comes not from the industrial north of New York State but from the ancient city of Pardubice in the Czech Republic. He is at the peak of his profession, and he knows it. He won a gold medal at the 1988 Nagano Olympics, among the many other trophies that he has accumulated over the years.

But the Stanley Cup, the sport's premier trophy, would be something else again. This colonial relic, named for the same family that gave its moniker to Stanley in the Falkland Islands and the Derby (Stanleys become Earls of Derby), has eluded Buffalo since it entered the NHL in 1970.

Defence is the hallmark of both teams, so the media has not entirely relished the prospect of a Stars-Sabres confrontation. Dallas and Buffalo finished the regular season first and second in terms of goals allowed. Both swamped their opponents in the Conference play-offs by closing them down. They are grinders, not ice dancers.

"The Stars against the Sabres is an extended rope-a-dope," wrote Bob Kravitz of Scripps-Howard News Service. "A filibuster on ice."

Hasek's opposite number for the Stars, Ed Belfour, is one of the few goalies who comes close to challenging him. He has a reputation, perhaps unfair, for making mistakes in crucial games, but the pressure on Dallas from the fans will be much less, whatever their own inner demons. The team only came down from Minnesota a few years back, and Dallas still thinks of ice as something that gets put in a glass of Jack Daniels.

The Stars coach Ken Hitchcock is a conservative, and that has paid off this season. "We knew if we played our game that we'd have a chance to win," said Keane of the Stars victory over the Colorado Avalanche in the Western Conference finals. "We couldn't get into a shoot-out with them. The Dallas Stars take pride in defensive hockey," he added. They will be formidable opponents for the Sabres.

Hasek can take care of himself. He is strong, athletic, imaginative and creative, piling up the pressure on opponents when they get close enough to shoot. The 34-year-old has been Most Valuable Player two years running, and may well be so again this year. And he desperately wants the cup.

"Right next to the gold medal," he said last week. "A lot of us feel that there's always a little hole if you don't get it," said the Sabres coach, Lindy Ruff. "He's going to feel that way if we don't accomplish what we set out to accomplish. You can't say it doesn't bother you if you don't win it."

His critics wonder if he is not a little too perfectionist about his fitness. He has even been accused of lead swinging, with the press and his opponents asking just how bad his injury is. Bad enough that he felt free to have a go at a columnist from the Buffalo News, and bad enough to defend himself vehemently and in public.

"It was tough to go to the coach and tell him that I could not play, but I'm glad I made the decision," he said. "I could play hurt and maybe give up some bad goals and we could lose. I feel good about the decision I made."

His colleagues seem to have got the teeniest bit irritated about the prominence given to Hasek's crotch. "You go to the gas station and it's: `What's up with Dom'?" Rob Ray of the Sabres told Sports Illustrated. "You go to the coffee shop and it's: `How's the groin'?

"In a small city like this, desperate for a winner, the people assume he's going to to be the reason if we win." But, then, perhaps he will be.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
REX/Eye Candy
science
News
A photo of Charles Belk being detained by police on Friday 22 August
news
News
i100
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring his first goal for Arsenal in the Champions League qualifier against Besiktas
sportChilean's first goal for the club secures place in draw for Champions League group stages
Arts and Entertainment
Amis: 'The racial situation in the US is as bad as it’s been since the Civil War'
booksAuthor says he might come back across Atlantic after all
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
Google Doodle celebrates the 200th birthday of Irish writer Sheridan Le Fanu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
News
i100
News
In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Jim Carrey and Kate Winslett medically erase each other from their memories
scienceTechnique successfully used to ‘reverse’ bad memories in rodents could be used on trauma victims
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Pixie Lott will take part in Strictly Come Dancing 2014, the BBC has confirmed
tv
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# Developer (C#, ASP.NET Developer, SQL, MVC, WPF, Real-Time F

£40000 - £48000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C# Devel...

C# Swift Payment Developer (C#, ASP.NET, .NET, MVC, Authorize.N

£45000 - £60000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C# Swift...

Front-End Developer (JavaScript, HTML5, CSS3, C#, GUI)

£55000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Front-End Deve...

Graduate C# Developer (.NET, WPF, SQL, Agile, C++) - London

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Graduate C# De...

Day In a Page

Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?