By John Vogl
The way Mitch Korn remembers it, Dominik Hasek's career in Buffalo was nearly over before it started.
The Sabres acquired Hasek from Chicago prior to the 1992-93 season, and they traded for Grant Fuhr during the campaign. After the season, the NHL held an expansion draft for newcomers Florida and Anaheim. Teams could protect only one goalie, and the Sabres chose to freeze Fuhr.
Neither the Panthers nor Mighty Ducks selected Hasek, who quickly unseated Fuhr and capped his career today by being voted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
"The first year was kind of rocky," Korn, who was the Sabres' goaltending coach during the 1990s, told The News by phone this evening. "When he came to us he had great instincts. We’ve all heard the Gumby comparisons, the Slinky comparisons, all those kinds of things. He had really good physical skills, very athletic, tremendously quick, but he didn’t have enough order."
Korn's first priority when working with Hasek was to slow the goaltender down.
"Because Dom processed so well, he knew what was going to happen next, but sometimes he wasn’t patient enough, and then he would, for no better terms, show his cards," Korn said. "The shooter might have been doing what he was going to do, then he changes because Dom showed his cards. One of the first projects I had was to help develop some patience to not show his cards.
"He’s so smart, so cerebral, such a bright person hockey-wise and outside of hockey. The things that just had to be done was order and patience. He had everything else."
Korn talked up Hasek to skeptical Sabres management.
"I said, 'Dom can play. You just have to have a strong stomach when you’re watching him.'"
While it might seem difficult to coach a goalie as unorthodox as Hasek -- who was known for diving, rolling and wandering to the blue line -- Korn said it was easy.
"Dom was really very easy to coach," he said. "If somebody’s very good at something, even if it’s not mainstream, you don’t coach it out of them."
Korn was one of two members of the Sabres organization publicly thanked by Hasek today (John Muckler was the other), and the Washington goalie coach took pride in that upon learning the news.
"Playing goal is like a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle," Korn said. "I’ve coached a lot of guys, and there are very few who have all 1,000 pieces on the table. My job was to help him to put those pieces together."