BUFFALO – Legendary Sabres goalie Dominik Hasek had never chosen his own number.
Back home in the Czech Republic, he was given No. 9 as a 16-year-old when a player got sick. When he came to North America in 1990, the Chicago Blackhawks gave him Nos. 31 and 34.
So shortly after the Sabres acquired him in 1992, Hasek was shocked when equipment manager Rip Simonick approached him at a late-summer workout at Sabreland in Wheatfield.
“I still remember, it was my first year in Buffalo,” Hasek, whose No. 39 will be retired by the Sabres tonight, said this morning inside the First Niagara Center. “We were practicing before the training camp in Sabreland, and Rip Simonick came to me.”
Hasek didn’t know Simonick.
“He introduced himself, ‘I am the equipment manager of the Buffalo Sabres,’ and he was asking me, ‘Dom, what number do you want to wear?’” Hasek said.
Hasek just looked at Simonick.
“Somebody, first time in my life, asked me, ‘What number do I want to wear?’” Hasek said. “Seriously, it was the first time in my life. So I was like, ‘Whoa, maybe the Sabres (are serious).’ I tried to stick with No. 9. But I felt like OK, No. 9 was in Czech. I want to put some other number on.”
So Hasek chose No. 39, an iconic number that will hang in the First Niagara Center rafters forever. If Simonick had given him another number, Hasek probably would have worn it.
In other news, the Sabres will scratch defensemen Tyson Strachan and Nikita Zadorov tonight against the Detroit Red Wings. Winger Chris Stewart skated this morning but is still feeling sick, Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. Stewart will likely sit. Matt Ellis has been recalled from Rochester.