The following is excerpted from the January 2017 issue of Blackhawks Magazine, featuring Marian Hossa. Pick up a copy at the next Blackhawks home game, or by calling the Blackhawks Store at 312-759-0079.
In October, Marian Hossa became the 44th player in NHL history to record 500 goals. Then he collected his 82nd game-winner. Three weeks before Christmas, he registered his 13th and 14th goals of the season, surpassing his admittedly disappointing output from 2015-16. As ever, Hossa skates with veteran verve beside whomever, whether it's an icon like Toews or twenty-somethings like Vinnie Hinostroza and Ryan Hartman. Head Coach Joel Quenneville hails Hossa as a model mentor, Niklas Hjalmarsson raves about how Hossa has found the fountain of youth, and Assistant Coach Kevin Dineen ascribes Hossa's genius to business as usual.
"I played with him when he was just a kid in Ottawa with the Senators," Dineen said. "He was a man-child then, and he's still special."
Special, for sure. But a superstar?
"No," Hossa insisted. "Like I said before, Tazer and Kaner, they're superstars. I do what I do, the best I can, and I'm just a small piece of the puzzle here. Besides, I've never won an individual award."
Hossa uttered that last remark almost as an aside, without even a tinge of remorse or dismay. But for a man with Hall of Fame credentials, he lacks some of the accouterments. Perhaps when he finished second in the 1999 Calder Trophy derby to Chris Drury of the Colorado Avalanche, it was a harbinger that Hossa's elegance would cost him flash points. He has been a disciple of defensive prowess, yet has not won a Frank J. Selke Trophy. He's attracted votes in multiple years, but the hardware often goes to a center. Time and again, Hossa has been mentioned as the very essence of a Lady Byng Trophy recipient for sportsmanship coupled with quality work on ice. But no cigar.
Does Hossa require louder numbers to roust those who cast ballots? Maybe that's it. He's never scored 50 goals in a season, and has amassed 40 or more in just three. He posted 100 points once with the Atlanta Thrashers in 2006-07, one of only two seasons that he landed in the top 10 of scorers. He's played in five NHL All-Star Games, but only in 2008-09 was he selected a postseason NHL All-Star, and then as a second team right winger. Of course, Hank Aaron is regarded by many as baseball's purest home run champion with 755 for his career. Yet he never even sniffed 50 in any season.
"I really don't like talking about myself," said Hossa, who is absolutely content when others don't talk about him either. He would rather do his thing, which is everything. He scores at even strength, on the power play and while shorthanded. He makes plays with his hands and his head and his feet. Yes, his feet. Watch his feet. He sets up teammates, and occasionally himself, with his skates. He caresses the puck as if it were a pet and pursues it as if someone absconded with his car keys. The rink is 200 feet from end to end, and Hossa treats every inch, every quadrant, as fertile territory. Stripping an opponent of the puck? That he'll discuss.
"Oh, that's fun," he said. "A clean takeaway. That can be as rewarding as scoring a goal."