He no longer wears the CH of the Montreal Canadiens, but that’s no reason not to appreciate Jeff Hackett. As of today, however, the veteran netminder no longer dons the jersey of any NHL club. The former Habs’ netminder announced his retirement from the league today, and while his numbers never were stunning, his contribution to the Montreal Canadiens was.
It was November 16th, 1998, and Jeff Hackett was headed to the Habs from the Chicago Blackhawks. For parts of five seasons the native of London, Ontario manned the crease for the Canadiens, providing stabilitiy, leadership, and a chance to win every night for his mates.
As he watched himself drop from the team’s number one netminder, to the backup to Jose Theodore, M. Hackett was respectful of his young mentor, and took on the role of the teacher to Theodore. All one has to do is look at the current day Jose Theodore to understand the prescence that the now 35-year old Hackett had on the superstar sliding out from underneath him. While Jeff Hackett will never be mentioned as a star, it’s safe to say his contributions to the Habs were of that calibre.
However, Jeff Hackett didn’t only come to play on the ice. Away from the rink, he was as classy as they come. Whether it meant taking a few minutes to chat with fans, signing an autograph or two for younger followers, or projecting a strong image of the Montreal franchise, the veteran goaltender, though he never played in a playoff game with the Habs, was all that you could ever ask for in a professional.
And so, while a trade saw him leave town last January, it came at the appropriate time, paving the way for Jose Theodore and Mathieu Garon to present themselves ars the current duo between the pipes. Hackett has bounced around from Boston to Philadelphia since the deal was made, and with the Flyers’ acquisiton of Sean Burke, it appears he has made a strong decision in leaving the game of professional hockey. Even as Robert Esche, his sidekick in goal with the Flyers, began to establish himself as a legitmate keeper, not a peep could be heard from the veteran Hackett.
There may not be a whole lot made about the retirement of a man who boasts a career .902 save percentage and 2.90 goals against average, but the contribution of Jeff Hackett reached well beyond statistics. There’s always room in the NHL for classy professionals, but it appears the NHL lost one of those individuals today. Congratulations to Jeff Hackett, always solid, if not spectacular, he was, the man had the heart of a Hab.