In seven seasons with the team, Marian Hossa scored 188 goals.
But that team wasn’t the Chicago Blackhawks. It was the Ottawa Senators, the team that drafted Hossa 12th overall in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft. Add in brief stints with the Atlanta Thrashers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings, and Hossa had 339 goals before he arrived in Chicago.
That seems like the best way to sum up just how incredible his NHL career was:
Hossa might’ve garnered Hall of Fame consideration without the eight seasons he spent playing for the Blackhawks.
It all felt like it was over, though, after the bombshell report last summer that an allergic reaction to his hockey equipment was forcing Hossa into an early retirement. It didn’t seem fair that this was how Hossa’s book was being closed. Any optimism about a miraculous comeback was dashed over the weekend when Hossa told a Slovakian news outlet that he would not be playing hockey again.
The numbers Hossa compiled in his 19 seasons filled with 1,309 regular season games are downright gaudy: 525 goals (35th in NHL history), 609 assists (82nd) and 1,134 points (54th). He also appeared in 205 playoff games, adding 52 more goals and 97 assists for an additional 149 points (30th). Hossa also ranks 11th in NHL history with 34 career shorthanded goals and his 143 power play goals are 53rd all-time.
In the decade of hockey Hossa played before arriving in Chicago, he routinely torched opposing goaltenders, scoring at least 30 goals in six straight seasons, peaking with a 43-goal, 57-assist 2006-07 season (his only 100-point season) for an Atlanta Thrashers team that featured Hossa and Ilya Kovalchuck and Vyacheslav Kozlov and not much else but still made the playoffs.
The middle of his career featured Hossa as the hockey nomad, wandering the postseason desert in search of his desired Stanley Cup victory. Remember that? Remember that Hossa was once known as a playoff choker who couldn’t win the big one, essentially the Dan Marino of hockey? Three Cups later ...
Hossa wasn’t that young phenom anymore when he arrived in Chicago in 2009, already at 30 years old when he signed that mammoth free agent deal. But any minuscule drop in ability from his younger seasons was dwarfed by the all-around hockey brilliance on display whenever No. 81 hit the ice.
Hossa made some of hockey’s most difficult skills appear effortless.
Every stick lift to swipe a puck from an opponent happened at a speed barely recognizable to the human eye. Every determined skate back to the defensive zone unfolded in a series of strides so fluid that it seemed like he was barely moving — until he got his stick into the passing lane to break up the looming scoring threat.
And when Hossa got the puck? It was now possession of Marian Hossa and no one else could have it. Trying to knock this machine off the puck was a lesson in futility:
(s/t to @myregularface on Twitter for those two gems)
Until the very end, Hossa was the consummate professional. Even in his 19th season, which started with Hossa at 36 years old and talks of him no longer being a top-six forward circulating, he replied the same way he always did: with production. In his final NHL season, Hossa scored 26 goals, the most he’d had since the 2013-14 campaign. He scored his 500th goal in the fourth game that season, adding another layer of iron to his already-clad Hall of Fame credentials.
But it’s officially over for Hossa, now, his career ended by something completely out of his control. Even though he played for nearly two decades, this ending still feels premature somehow.
And though he certainly could not have enjoyed what happened during the 2017-18 Blackhawks season — there was never any evidence that Hossa was anything other than a pleasure to have as a teammate — having that team miss the playoffs in its first full season without Hossa indicates the depth of the contributions Hossa made to his team, both on and off the ice.
In the NHL’s future, there will be more 1,300-game careers. There will be more 500-goal scorers. There will be more two-way forwards. But there may never be another player who plays the game as completely while making it look so smooth, so effortless as Hossa did.
And, don’t forget this:
Feel free to share your favorite Hossa highlights/GIFs/memes in the comments. There are plenty to go around.