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On Tuesday morning, the Chicago Blackhawks announced that first-ballot Hall of Famer Marián Hossa would be signing a one-day contract with the club and retiring as a member of the Blackhawks. Hossa will have a signing ceremony prior to Thursday night’s contest against the Seattle Kraken, where he will officially end his career with the team he played the most games of his career with.
To honor Hossa’s official retirement with the Blackhawks, the CHGO Blackhawks crew took time to reflect on his impact and best moments with the team and the city.
Jay: I remember the day it happened. It was July 1, 2009. I was out looking for an apartment to rent in Lemont, but keeping up on the news, which in my recollection was moving a bit slowly for the Hawks. No one knew what was going to happen with Martin Havlat, who was a free agent as well. Then in the mid-afternoon, it happened. Marian Hossa was a Blackhawk. Then, there was the magical press conference with Hossa and his buddy, Tomáš Kopecký, in front of a bunch of thrilled children. It was a classic John McDonough stunt, but it sure as hell was memorable.
I remember exactly where I was when I got the news of the signing. To me, and I think to a lot of Hawks fans, it was the signal that this team knew it was time to win, and was going to do everything necessary to make it happen. The old Hawks would have opted to sign Havlat and sell him as the team’s next great star, but Dale Tallon and company knew Havlat wasn’t the type of player to get the Hawks over the hump. Hossa was.
Mario: Oh, 100 percent it was the signal that business was about to pick up. Watching the 2008-09 team was special because you could see the makings of something great. The postseason run to the Western Conference Finals, which was coincidentally ended by Hossa and the Red Wings, was unexpected for that team. Once Hossa joined the fray, I remember getting just as excited for that season as I was when Kane and Toews were rookies. It was one of those, “It’s on” moments for me.
Greg: Hossa’s arrival definitely changed things. The Blackhawks proved they were ready to spend on the free-agent market the previous summer when they signed Brian Campbell and Cristobal Huet. But when Hossa signed, it meant they were ready to win it all. Hossa was “Cup chasing” at the time. He was on the losing end of the previous two Stanley Cup Finals with the Penguins and Red Wings. Nobody ever came to the Blackhawks to win a Stanley Cup, but No. 81 did. And he delivered … three times.
Jay: The other thing is Hossa choosing the Hawks as his permanent “Cup chasing” destination (especially over the Red Wings). We saw it wasn’t just our homerism, but stars around the league wanted to be here. That hadn’t happened in my life before. Stars around the league saw the Hawks were ready to win, too.
Greg: His debut with the team proved how huge his addition was, too. We had to wait until November 25, 2009 to see Hossa in a Blackhawks sweater due to offseason surgery, but it was worth it. I remember being in my old favorite watering hole that night and being shocked by the amount of people who were there to watch a late-night Blackhawks regular-season game in November. He made quite the debut by scoring two goals in a huge 7-2 win at the Sharks, with his first being of the shorthanded variety. Chicago had a new star.
Jay: Waiting for Hossa’s debut was torture. There was so much excitement when the signing happened and then we had to wait until November to see it, but man, it was totally worth the wait. He was fantastic in that game and it just proved that he was the star we thought he was. To come off an injury and put up a performance like that? Unforgettable.
Mario: Toews handing Hossa the Cup first in 2010 was incredible. I never thought that it would be the first of three over the next five years, but knowing Hossa was along for the ride for the long-term, even with the destruction of that roster in the summer, they still had a chance because of him. That’s the kind of player he was and you can see over the past five seasons without him in Chicago, even in the last stage of his career, the impact he had on the team.
Greg: The most amazing thing about Hossa’s career with the Blackhawks was his humility. He did a lot of the little things that helped the team win three championships, but never sought the glory. His greatest work was what he did when he didn’t have the puck. Even with all the points he put up, his best value were all the things he did that never showed up in a box score. He went out and did his job every night and never once wanted the spotlight. A humble and kind star is so rare these days.
Mario: That’s a quick way to become a fan-favorite in Chicago, doing all the little things right to help the team. You saw and heard the fanfare when he walked out of the tunnel on Sunday for Toews’ 1,000th game celebration. I think with the unfortunate way his career ended, there was never an opportunity for some sort of sour ending in Chicago, like there could be with Toews and/or Kane, so it’s easy to see why everyone does and probably forever will love Hossa in this town.
Greg: Hossa got a CM Punk pop! It was great to hear. It wasn’t nearly quite as loud as when he scored that famous goal versus the Predators during the 2010 playoffs, but it wasn’t bad. That still remains the greatest Blackhawks game I ever attended. He is truly beloved in this city and it is well-deserved. He has his rightful place in the Hockey Hall of Fame and it is just a matter of time before his No. 81 hangs from the rafters.
Jay: I’m gonna name drop here, but when I spoke to Jaime Faulkner Sunday night, our main topic was Hossa. She mentioned how impressive he is on and off the ice, his intelligence, and how everyone lights up when he’s around. The crowd pop he got was incredible. It got a little dusty in there at that moment.
Mario: Without trying to stop the gushing over Hossa, because there’s always room for that, what’s a moment, outside of the Game 5 OT winner over Nashville, that sticks out to you guys?
Greg: I loved the play in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals against the Kings. Dustin Brown took a run at him behind the net and he stood his ground, putting the Kings’ captain flat on his back. That was textbook Hossa. An unassuming badass.
Jay: Greg, you’re totally right, and that’s what made the Raffi Torres hit so shocking. Hossa had never taken a hit like that before. It was sickening to watch and I was worried he’d never play again in the immediate moments following.
As for favorite moments, there are two that stand out.
During a 2009 game vs. Tampa, Hossa caught the puck in midair, dropped it to his stick, and scored, batting it into the net before the puck hit the ground. The other was a moment against the Red Wings in the 2015 season. Hossa had the puck in the Detroit zone. Pavel Datsyuk picked his pocket and took it the other way. It was actually a pretty rough play for Hossa, and he knew it. Hossa turned around, caught up to Datsyuk, took the puck back, and set up a great scoring chance. Two legends going at it, and Hossa ultimately won.
I was also a fan of his slap shot shootout attempts. “Here. Stop this!”
Mario: I love this exercise of jogging the memories of the last decade that aren’t the ones we always hear about. For me, I go back to that 2013 season and the historic run the team had to start the season. Hossa was coming back from the Torres hit still and the lockout-delayed season actually worked in his favor to be ready for when the season started in January. In early February, on the second-night of back-to-back games, Hossa scored the game-tying goal with just under three seconds to play in a road game against the Flames. That was the night Ray Emery made 45 saves to help steal that win for the Blackhawks as they went on to get the shootout victory. Without Emery’s performance and that late game-tying goal from Hossa, the historic 21-0-3 start never transpires.
Jay: I’m just so glad this whole “retiring as a Blackhawk” thing is happening for Hossa. He had some of his best individual seasons with Ottawa and Atlanta, but the things he achieved in Chicago surpass all of that. Now, “how he’ll be remembered” is no longer in question. He is a Blackhawk, and he chose to be a Blackhawk, in 2009 and today.
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