When I was younger, being a Blackhawks fan meant rooting for players on other teams since Chicago was shit, and their owner was even shittier. Two of the players I gravitated towards were Martin Havlat and Marian Hossa; at the time two top young talents on the Ottawa Senators.
Fast forward to the first day of free agency in the summer of 2009. Chicago had just come off a somewhat unexpected playoff run to the conference finals. They were ready to take the next step in their progress, and that meant going after the biggest free agent available: Marian Hossa. Chicago signed Hossa to a 12 year deal, but at the time it seemed like a major win. The fact that Hossa virtually replaced my favorite player in Havlat was not lost on me. Even days after Hossa was signed, I was desperately hoping Chicago would find a way to keep Havlat.
In his first year with Chicago, Hossa became a force after returning from offseason surgery, scoring two goals to help Chicago to a 7-2 win over San Jose in his first game with the Blackhawks. Hossa was quickly beginning to fill a Havlat-sized hole in the hockey part of my heart. I remember watching the game at a buddy’s house. Both of us lost our minds over how much fun it was to watch Hossa play. Little did we know, we would experience moment after moment of pure awe watching this player. From his ruthless backchecking to the seemingly impossible task of stealing the puck from him (unless you’re Raffi Torres, then you just knock out players until the league forces you to leave).
Hossa would go onto provide memories that I will remember for years. Two I won’t ever forget: scoring the OT goal against Nashville in Game 5 in 2010 and the time he caught a puck and dropped it, batting it out of mid air and into the net.
You will see most Hawks fans saying Hossa’s skin condition is legitimate while most neutral fans will say it’s a loophole for the Hawks to put him on long-term injured reserve. My assumption is that his condition is real, and if it happened to someone like me, I would stop playing, but a pro would get the medication and play through it. I think if Hossa was 32, we wouldn’t be where we are at today. The timing is convenient for the Hawks’ cap situation, but they are losing a true legend.
If hockey has taught me anything in the last couple of years, it’s that I shouldn’t glorify players for simply being talented. I don’t know how they are outside of the rink and neither do you. Odds are I wouldn’t want to have a beer with 99% of professional hockey players. I don’t know if Marian Hossa is a good person off the ice. I do know that it was a ridiculous amount of fun to watch him play, and while it’s sad to see him retire in all but an official announcement, we should all be grateful to have witnessed one of the best players of his generation.