There are big moments in sports (and in life) where you will always remember exactly where you were when they happened. Championships, big trades, transcendent plays, whatever it may be. We’ve had a lot of them around these parts in the last decade, and Marian Hossa has been a key part of them.
I remember exactly where I was when the Hawks signed Hossa back in the summer of 2009. At my cousin’s house, in their computer room (the most 2009 thing ever), checking in on the latest NHL free agency updates. Then it flashed on the screen: “Hossa to the Hawks.”
For the first time, in my fandom at least, a high-profile NHL player chose Chicago to pursue a championship. Hossa saw where the young, rebuilding Hawks were going, and wanted to be a part of it. Finally, someone chose us. It’s quite possibly the best free agent signing in Chicago sports history. The rest, as they say, is history.
The story is well documented. Marian Hossa, one of the best forwards in the league, had failed to win the Stanley Cup two years in a row. In 2008, losing to the Red Wings as a member of the Penguins, and then in 2009, losing to the Penguins as a member of the… Red Wings. Hossa’s efforts to get his first ring had fallen short, twice! Even after leaving Pittsburgh to go to Detroit, the team that beat him in ’08.
Of course, we know how everything played out from here. Hossa finally got his championship as the Blackhawks won their first Stanley Cup in 49 years a season later in 2010. Hossa and the Hawks would go on to win two more Cups over the next seven seasons.
Fast forward to June 21, 2017: Hossa and the Blackhawks releasing a statement announcing that he would be out for the entire 2017-18 season due to a “progressive skin disorder” that he had been suffering and playing through for years. As the medications became less effective, and side effects more risky, Hossa came to the conclusion that playing was out of the picture. “I have to consider the severity of my condition and how the treatments have impacted my life both on and off the ice,” said the 38-year-old. While the word “retire” was never officially used, we can all read between the lines and make a solid conclusion.
It’s been widely reported how Hossa’s absence in 2017-18 will potentially give the Hawks much-needed cap relief this summer. That’s not what this post is for. If you want to read about it, you can here. This is for remembering what Marian Hossa means to the Blackhawks and their fans.
Hossa’s wizardry and artistry on the ice is equally matched by his class and character off of it. Media members have been praising him all week with personal stories from the inside. From all accounts Marian Hossa is one of the most humble and classy Hawk players over the last few years.
While Hossa was never the best player on any recent Hawks teams, he’s been a model of consistency over the last eight years. He’s one of the best I’ve ever seen at controlling the puck and fighting off defenders. The ways that he would get checked, not even budge, still control the puck, and fight his way out of trouble always left us in awe. All of that toughness also came with a prime scoring touch as well. His signature shot, the half slapper, was one of the best and most dangerous in the league.
There are so many great memories from his time on West Madison Street. Remember when he scored two goals in his 2010 team debut vs. San Jose after returning from injury?
How about when he caught the puck, dropped it, and batted it out of the air and into the net? One of the craziest goals I’ve ever seen.
Or breaking the stalemate in Game 2 of the 2010 Final to give the Hawks a 1-0 lead.
In 2011 when the Hawks were trying to force a Game 7 against the Canucks after trailing 3-0, it was Hossa’s puck control that kept the play alive, leading to Ben Smith’s classic OT game-winner and a Game 7 back in Vancouver. That goal doesn’t happen without Hossa.
And then there was the moment that made us all hold our breath. Game 3 of the first round in 2012 against the Coyotes. Midway through the first period, Hossa was flattened in front of the Hawks’ bench by a vicious and dirty hit by Raffi Torres. Hossa was laid out on the ice, motionless and in distress, as the Hawks brawled with the Coyotes. After a few minutes Hossa was placed onto a stretcher and taken off the ice. One of the most savage and brutal, never mind illegal, open-ice hits ever. Torres was suspended for the rest of the playoffs, and the “Hossa-less” Hawks were eventually eliminated in six games.
Hossa rehabilitated over the offseason, and was ready to go at the start of the lockout-shortened 2013 campaign. He didn’t miss a beat, scoring 17 goals in the 40-games season, and also scored the game-winning goal in Game 4 vs. Los Angeles to put the Hawks up 3-1 in the Western Conference Final. He notched seven goals during the Hawks’ run to their second Stanley Cup in four seasons.
How about when he combined the handles and scoring touch, dangling coast-to-coast to score one of his prettier goals against the Preds?
We’ll never forget Hossa’s milestone night in October of 2016. After sitting on 499 goals following the end of the previous season, Hossa could practically smell No. 500. His 500th career goal came in the UC on a backhander against the Flyers. Hossa became the fifth player to notch their 500th in a Hawks sweater, the seventh player in franchise history to reach 500, and 44th in NHL history to hit the elusive benchmark.
The next night the Blackhawks honored Hossa’s historic achievement with a pre-game ceremony, giving us one of the best glimpses into what kind of person, and dad, Marian Hossa is.
But all of those great memories fall well short of Hossa’s most important moment in a Blackhawks’ uniform. A moment that would alter the course of franchise history.
Rewind back to the first round 2010. The Blackhawks and Predators are tied 2-2 going into Game 5 at the United Center. Most of you know the story.
Back in the spotlight the of playoffs, and on national TV, the Blackhawks found their 3-1 second period lead vanish as Nashville roared back to take a 4-3 lead with just minutes remaining. With time winding down, Hossa shoved Dan Hamhuis headfirst into the end boards, resulting in a boneheaded five-minute penalty. Luckily, it wasn’t more.
The Hawks would now be shorthanded for the rest of regulation, making it even more difficult to find a tying goal. The Hawks seemed dead in the water, potentially facing a 3-2 series deficit going back to Nashville. And then it happened. With the net empty, Patrick Kane scored with 14 seconds left to improbably send the game into overtime.
But the deed wasn’t done quite yet, as the Hawks would be shorthanded for the first four minutes of the overtime period. With Hossa sitting in the Sin Bin, the Hawks managed to kill off the penalty. Hossa left the box and bolted right to the front of the net. The puck suddenly found his stick, staring at a yawning cage. He didn’t miss. Bedlam.
It’s quite possibly the defining moment of the Hawks’ run. For the first time we all saw, and more importantly believed, that this group really had something special. The Chicago Blackhawks became the Chicago Blackhawks that day.
Hossa, after seemingly ruining everything, had saved the day when it mattered most. Who knows what happens going forward if Hossa (and Kane) didn’t score. It’s his signature moment in a Hawks sweater, the one that he will forever be remembered by.
The Hawks would go on to win Game 6, and a few weeks later, defeat the Philadelphia Flyers to win their first Stanley Cup in nearly a half century.
Hossa had finally gotten his ring. With Chicago.
The seminal moment of the whole 2010 celebration was Toews handing the Cup to Hossa. It was the obvious choice. You could feel the weight lifted off of Hossa’s shoulders as he hoisted the Cup after the heartbreak of having to watch the previous two seasons.
It was such a beautiful moment.
Hossa has been known to keep family and personal things private. He’s chosen that route again, not commenting any further on his health. If this is the end for him, it’s such a heartbreaking way to have to leave the game. Players want to be able to go out on their own terms, and it’s a shame that Hossa won’t have that chance it seems. He deserves better.
Marian Hossa has been an example of class in the NHL for 19 fantastic seasons. He will absolutely be a sure-fire hockey Hall of Famer. No discussion.
He will also forever be a beloved Chicago Blackhawk.
Thank you, Big Hoss. It isn’t nearly enough.