Marian Hossa long had his thoughts of what a 1,000-game career meant.
“When I was younger, when someone got to their 1,000th game, I thought about what a great accomplishment it was. I also thought, ‘Those guys are going to retire pretty soon.’ Now I’m coming to that point,” the Chicago Blackhawks’ right wing said with a grin. “But so far I feel pretty good. So hopefully I can play many more years.”
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Hossa will, indeed, be basking in his milestone moment when he plays in his 1,000th-career NHL game on Sunday, when the Blackhawks face one of his former teams, the Detroit Red Wings. It’s been a great ride for Hossa, who has accomplished much in his career: Olympic appearances, goals, points and honors galore and, on his third consecutive trip to the finals, that elusive Stanley Cup.
Hossa has dazzled, wowed, stunned and entertained throughout his career. He’s one of the most affable players in the game. For past and present teammates and coaches, Hossa has left a lasting mark.
Patrick Kane was a young lad growing up in Buffalo when he first saw Marian Hossa, who was just starting his career with the Ottawa Senators.
“I’d sit behind the visitor’s bench and I’d try to lean over and look at the sticks, see what everyone was using and the curve. I remember watching him one game and I came out of it thinking he was my favorite player: just a little tape job on his toe, just couple strips of white tape. He looked real young with the Senators, No. 18, just flying up the ice and scoring pretty goals and making nice plays,” Kane said. “He was a pleasure to watch.”
[WATCH: Hossa plays in his 1,000th game]
He still is.
“Even today, there are times, probably once or twice a game, I’m shaking my head at what he does,” Kane said. “He’s a very exciting player and he’s still at the top of his game. He’s just a great, down-to-earth guy. He’s been a real pleasure to play with.”
Jonathan Toews also grew up a Hossa fan, and couldn’t have been happier when the Blackhawks signed him heading into the 2009-10 season.
“To have a chance play with him and win a Cup with him, and everything else in between, is pretty special,” Toews said. “As a young guy coming into the league, you’re always excited to play against one of your childhood heroes. To share a locker room with a guy like Marian Hossa, who I watched for many years before I ever became a pro, is a huge honor.”
Ray Emery, who first played with Hossa when they were both with the Ottawa Senators in the early 2000s, said not much has changed in Hossa’s game.
“He was a complete player back then,” Emery said. “He’s one of the only guys who goes back as hard, maybe harder, than he goes on offense. It’s a testament to him. He’s been to a lot of finals, he won a Cup and he’s just continuing to be an elite player.”
For Bob Hartley, who coached Hossa during their days with the Atlanta Thrashers, Hossa has “a special place in my book.” Hall of Famer Joe Sakic, Hartley said, is the greatest player he’s coached. But Hossa is a very close second.
[WATCH: Hossa in a league of his own]
“He’s strong as a bull out there. You have the puck, you basically need a tow truck to lift his stick. He’s going to come from behind and he’s one of the best pickpockets in the business. It’s all about work, it’s all about commitment. For me, he’s a real franchise player,” Hartley told the Calgary Sun. He’s not surprised that Hossa’s still playing at a high level.
“The guy can score, he can beat you in so many ways. He could go in a 10-game goal drought and you could still win those 10 games because he does so many great things,” Hartley said. “You have to really look at his game of hockey to really appreciate what he brings.”
Coach Joel Quenneville concurs.
“He’s zero maintenance from a coaching perspective,” he said. “He’s everything you want in a player. He does his thing and wants to be the best he can be and contributes in a very meaningful way, game in and game out.”
Daniel Carcillo has played on Hossa’s lines a few times over the past two seasons. Carcillo said the affect Hossa has, on and off the ice, is palpable.
“The first thing that comes to mind is the person that he is: he’s just a humble guy. Always smiling, always in a great mood,” Carcillo said. “When you play with someone of his caliber, you tend to try to overdo things. But he has such a calming affect on you; you can just be yourself and play the game. He’s always encouraging. He’s just a staple of calmness.”
Bryan Bickell said he’s taken advantage of his proximity to Hossa in the Blackhawks’ locker room.
“I sit beside him, and he always gives me tips on what to do to make my game better,” he said. “He’s a force out there. He’s an all-package player: defense, scoring, penalty kill and power play. I know he doesn’t have a letter on his jersey but he shows on the ice, and in the dressing room, that he’s a leader.”
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There isn’t much Hossa hasn’t done in his career. He used to think 1,000 games meant you were close to the end. He’s rethought that. He loves the game too much to think about stopping now.
“The biggest (achievement) was winning the Stanley Cup. I’m one of the lucky ones, because not everybody’s going to win this trophy. Hopefully I can repeat it at least one more time; that would be nice,” Hossa said. “I just try to be that type of player. I just try to help the team win games, night in and night out.”