Marian Hossa reportedly said in an interview his playing career is over, marking the official end to one of the greatest eras in Chicago Blackhawks history
“To add Marian, an elite and world-class player … to our exciting young core reinforces our commitment to try to win the Stanley Cup.”
These words, spoken by soon-to-be departed Chicago Blackhawks general manager Dale Tallon, came a little less than nine years ago. July 2, 2009, is a day that is not only important to Blackhawks fans, but the entire sports culture of the city of Chicago.
The signing of Marian Hossa by the Blackhawks ushered in a new era of Blackhawks hockey. Only a few short weeks removed from being eliminated in the Western Conference finals by Hossa’s Detroit Red Wings, the Blackhawks made what would end up becoming the best free agent signing in Chicago sports history.
When Hossa came to Chicago, he was a veteran of 775 NHL games, played with Ottawa, Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Detroit. He had played almost 100 NHL games more than Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp and Niklas Hjalmarsson combined, four players he would soon share three Stanley Cup championship runs with.
At 30 years old, Hossa was by no means a washed-up NHL forward, but the youth around him in Chicago made him an obvious veteran leader and role model for his teammates. He had already tallied 339 goals and 380 assists in his NHL career and played in back-to-back Stanley Cup Finals. He was soft-spoken, but led by example and excelled every night with his new teammates.
Some people talked about the curse of Hossa leading into 2009-10; not being able to win a Stanley Cup and playing on the losing team of the same Finals matchup in back-to-back seasons. But those losses did not define Hossa. The fact he was a contributor to both teams making it to the Finals was a better display of who he was as a player.
Changing a culture
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It’s not that the Blackhawks had not had any success before Hossa. Coming off a season in which they were one of the final four teams left playing, the ‘Hawks were clearly rising with an exciting youth core.
But the signing of Hossa was the final piece in the complete culture change in Chicago. The team was now a favorite instead of a dark horse. Fans who had boxed their Blackhawks sweaters deep within their closets and basements were digging them back out. The once-dead franchise was relevant again with the 2008-09 Blackhawks; it was thriving with the 2009-10 team.
Hossa would go on to play in back-to-back-to-back Stanley Cup Finals in his first season in Chicago and would finally get his first Stanley Cup victory; his new team’s first Cup in 49 years as well.
The first player to raise the cup over his head after Toews received it, Hossa had a long journey to winning a ring, but he certainly wasn’t content with just one piece of jewelry.
Hossa would go on to raise the Cup two more times with the Blackhawks, one of only seven players to do so in the “modern dynasty” era. While there were clearly many contributors to the success of the franchise over the last decade, no other player embodies the championship window of the Blackhawks better than Hossa.
In his 534 regular-season games with the Blackhawks, the team went 323-150-61, getting points in the standings in 72 percent of the games Hossa played. The team was 45-32-11 (points in 64 percent of games) in games Hossa could not suit up in during that eight-year stretch.
He had 186 goals, 229 assists and a 54.9 percent Corsi-for rate in his Blackhawks regular-season career. The team went 66-40 in postseason play with Hossa on the ice, and he tallied 21 goals and 52 assists in the postseason.
The end of an era
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Then, as quick as the news came in July of 2009 that Hossa would be joining the ‘Hawks, the news was just as sudden in June of 2017 that Hossa would not be playing the following season with the team due to a skin disorder that made wearing hockey gear night-in and night-out torture for him.
The team would finish 33-39-10 in 2017-18. There were many factors into the major drop in the Blackhawks’ play, but the absence of Hossa was more than evident. The team struggled keeping possession and scoring all season, two strong aspects of Hossa’s game. As Hossa’s playing career came to a close, so did the run of Blackhawks playoff appearances and possibly their championship window.
With Hossa all but officially announcing his retirement this past weekend, it truly ends one of the brightest eras in the franchise’s history. Hossa represented class, leadership and skill while playing with the Blackhawks and retrospectively represents success, dominance and triumph when thinking of his Blackhawks career.
While there are six other players who won the Stanley Cup three times in Chicago, only Hossa’s tenure spans that exact span of success. Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Toews, Kane, Hjalmarsson and Sharp all have careers with the Blackhawks that extend before the first Stanley Cup run and all but Hjalmarsson have at least one season past the playoff streak window. Hossa represents the exact period where the Blackhawks were dominant; the embodiment of the most successful era in Blackhawks history.
It is no fluke that the Blackhawks’ modern dynasty and Hossa’s tenure with the team run concurrently. There is no way of knowing how different 2010 through 2017 would have been for the Blackhawks had it not included Hossa, but I doubt it would have been as successful.
While he may have played 775 games before coming to the Windy City, Hossa and the franchise were a match that led to achieving the ultimate goal both aspired towards; a pinnacle that neither was able to reach without the other.
Reliving all the great moments Hossa had while wearing a Blackhawks sweater, I came to realize how lucky we were as Blackhawks fans to watch a forward with such talent night after night. How lucky we as ‘Hawks fans were to see Hossa raise the Stanley Cup over his head three times. How lucky we were he chose to come to Chicago in the summer of 2009.
The franchise and Hossa were both benefactors of that contract agreement, but we, as fans, were the ultimate winners. Congratulations on an amazing career, Marian, and thank you so much for the amazing memories.