He has earned millions of dollars, won Olympic gold and piled up five trophies as the NHL's top goalie. But for "the Dominator," there's no place like home.
Appearing relaxed and even relieved, Dominik Hasek said today he would retire from the Buffalo Sabres at the end of the upcoming season so he could raise his children in his homeland -- the Czech Republic.
The goaltender, 34, said his children -- 9-year-old Michal and 4-year-old Dominika -- find it increasingly difficult to adapt to Czech life when they go home in the offseason.
"I decided to retire because of my friends and my family," Hasek said, adding that he and his wife, Alena, want their children to get a Czech education.
Hasek also is tired of the limelight -- too many requests for autographs, too many people stopping him on the street, not enough peace of mind.
"In America, they say, `Out of sight, out of mind,' " Hasek said. "I hope this will work for me at home.
"The attention I've received is overwhelming. It's something I don't enjoy at all. It's time to step back."
Sabres assistant general manager Larry Carriere flew to Prague for the news conference and praised Hasek's contributions not only to the team, but also to Buffalo.
"Obviously it will be difficult to replace somebody of the caliber of Dominik Hasek," he said. "But he gave us the opportunity to plan . . . our future a year in advance."
Hasek said he started thinking about retirement nine months ago and met with Sabres management about it. He and his wife made the final decision just before the playoffs, he said.
Despite struggling much of last season with a groin injury, Hasek helped the Sabres reach the Stanley Cup finals, in which they lost to Dallas in six games.
Hasek, known for flopping to the ice to block shots and even releasing his stick and grabbing for the puck with two hands, was paid $7 million last season. Only Patrick Roy of the Colorado Avalanche, who made $7.5 million, had a higher salary among goalies.
Hasek has two years remaining on his contract -- $7 million for the upcoming season and $7.5 million for 2000-01 -- and the club holds an option at $9 million for the following season. "If somebody offered me $25 million to play one more year, I wouldn't," Hasek said.
He went to the NHL in January 1990. Buffalo acquired Hasek in 1992 in a trade from Chicago, where he was a backup to Ed Belfour.
Hasek won the NHL's most valuable player award in 1997 and 1998, and won his first Vezina Trophy as the NHL's best goalie in 1994 with Buffalo at the age of 29. He won it four more times, including this year.
His future, he said, will include working with children to educate them as well as teach them hockey.
Hasek said he will remain active with Buffalo's Variety Club, an organization that takes care of children from poor families and pays for their hockey training.
But there will be no comeback after next year, he pledged. "Once I take off my equipment for the last time, that's going to be forever," Hasek said.