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Between the Dots: Special place, special player

by Bob Verdi / Chicago Blackhawks

OTTAWA—Marian Hossa described this as a “special place.” And this special place returned the compliment, saluting a special player.

Hossa crafted a wraparound goal Thursday night for his 1000th career point, and as much as it hurt the Ottawa Senators, 17,529 fans at the Canadian Tire Centre arose to honor a future Hall of Famer.

“Goosebumps,” said Hossa, after the Blackhawks prevailed, 5-4, on Patrick Sharp’s shootout goal, the last puck fired during a game liberally sprinkled with turnovers and momentum changes.

One thing hasn’t changed since Hossa was drafted 12th overall in 1997: Hossa is a professional. There are pictures of past Senators teams throughout this building. There is Hossa, with different hairstyles posing with different mates from his tenure here. But he remains an elegant player, respected and respectful.

“This is where it all started,” said Hossa, who assisted on Jonathan Toews’ first of two goals, then afforded the Blackhawks a brief 4-3 advantage at 13:50 of the final period to become the 80th individual in National Hockey League history to attain the 1,000 point plateau.

As a child in what was then Czechoslovakia, Hossa would watch rare glimpses of professional sports made available on TV from North America. He studied a legend in his hockey, Wayne Gretzky, but also Michael Jordan, the Bulls icon who devastated opponents the old-fashioned way. If his shot wasn’t dropping on a particular night, Jordan would defeat you by defending you.

Hossa completes thusly on skates. He doesn’t have to make points to make a difference. Stripping an adversary of the puck is as delightful to him as finding the back of the net.

“Class act,” said Toews.

“An honor to be on his side,” added Duncan Keith.

Hossa left the Senators for the Atlanta Thrashers, then played with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings before joining the Blackhawks in 2009, just in time to contribute to the first of two Stanley Cups. He logged only seven years in Ottawa, but this is a hockey mecca that appreciates excellence, friend or foe.

“I was very fortunate, coming here at the beginning,” said Hossa. “Nice people. Nice then, nice again tonight. I was pretty much by myself here as a rookie. Now, I’m 35 and around all these young kids, trying to keep up. This is all very nice. This is as good as it gets for me. I am very thankful for all the people who have helped me get to this milestone.”

Thursday night’s affair was the second Illinois cage match within the week featuring Ottawa’s Craig Anderson and the Blackhawks’ Scott Darling, both Chicago area natives. Darling won Sunday night in the United Center. He was not great Thursday night, but he did reject all three Senators in the shootout as Corey Crawford suited up and Antti Raanta sat out.

A humble man, Hossa was engulfed by the media following his landmark achievement. He’s getting older, true, but his style never gets old.

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