PRAGUE - When word got out that Marian Hossa was in a hallway just outside of their dressing room at O2 Arena in Prague, Blackhawks players began to slip away from preparing to practice to greet him.
There were handshakes, hugs and plenty of smiles as Hossa met with Jonathan Toews, Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith on Thursday before the Blackhawks took the ice on the eve of their 2019-20 season opener against the Flyers as part of the NHL's Global Series. After practice, other players who won one, two or three of the Blackhawks most recent Stanley Cups with Hossa rushed to get dressed so they, too, could reunite with him.
Looking fit, tanned and happy wearing black jeans and a thin, black sweater, Hossa said that what he misses most about not playing is moments such as this: hanging out with teammates.
"I miss being around the guys in the dressing room," Hossa, 40, said almost wistfully.
Video: Marian Hossa visits his old teammates
What the former star winger, who had to step away from the NHL prior to the 2017-18 season due to a skin disorder that often left him in excruciating pain and forced him to take a medication that wore down his body, doesn't miss is being on somebody else's schedule.
"It's definitely different now from the standpoint of almost 20 years in the National Hockey League, plus when I was younger playing hockey, in that you always had a schedule where you had to be," Hossa said. "'What hotel? When does the plane leave?' and all of a sudden after many years the biggest change for me was I don't have to follow these rules. I can make my own. I can wake up, put the kids in school and plan my own day. That's the biggest difference for me and so far I enjoy it."
Since the stunning announcement that he would step away - Hossa isn't officially retired and is on the Coyotes long-term injured list until his contract expires following the '20-21 season - he has spent time taking his daughters, Mia, 8, and Zoja 5, to school near his home in Trencin, Slovakia, helping head up a frozen food company and playing plenty of golf.
Hossa is doing all of that pain-free after spending the final four seasons of his NHL career dealing with the condition that caused him to skip many morning skates and practices but suit up for games.
"Some days were really tough," said Hossa, who indicated that then-coach Joel Quenneville was very understanding about what he was going through. "Joel was great about it. He saw what was happening and he told me, 'Hoss, I need you for the games. Take as many days as you need, do your stuff in the gym and just be ready for the games.'"
But when even that routine became too much to be bear, Hossa made the decision to step away from the game despite still being able to play at a high level.
"That was difficult but I guess the time shows so far that it was a good decision," Hossa said. "Two years I haven't had the gear on me and my skin is clean and I can run, I can sweat but my skin is breathing so it's totally different. It's like when I was working out in the summer, I was OK then, but as soon as I put the equipment on the last four years it started getting worse and worse."
"I definitely miss the playing part of the business because I felt like I still have something left in my tank," he added. "I felt great when I was entering my last year. But this is what happened and I try to look at the positive side."
Did Hossa ever ask fate why this was happening to player in peak condition?
"Oh, trust me, yeah," he said. "I was like, 'How come this is starting?' Four years before I was finished playing there was no answer for it. I guess I was missing something in my body. When you play to a certain age maybe you start missing some vitamins or your hormones were a little bit changing and something was missing so it was irritating my skin for some reason and I don't know why. But I don't think about it anymore these days."
Another thing Hossa hadn't pondered is the legacy the member of the NHL's exclusive 500 goals club and future Hall-of-Famer has left behind.
"I've never thought about that but I guess people who saw me play over so many years, say that I tried to play both ends of the ice," he said. "Most of the people told me that so I guess that's it."
Hossa then laughed and said, "I guess no one cares about 500 goals."
Watching former teammates, trainers, equipment men, reporters and members of the Blackhawks organization all flocking to speak with Hossa displayed how much he meant to those around him.
Perhaps not so coincidentally, the Blackhawks have not reached the postseason since Hossa's departure.
"You can't replace Marian Hossa," Senior Vice President/General Manager Stan Bowman said. "We've certainly felt it the last couple years. He was such an important part of our team - we never would have won any of our Stanley Cups without Marian's contributions.
"It was a combination of the way he played, the role that he had on our team, but his approach to the game, his professionalism (and) his mentoring," Bowman continued. "You add it all up and it was a huge loss when he wasn't able to play anymore. We certainly miss him a lot. He brought so much to the table beyond just scoring - he did all the things that you need a player to do to win."
Hossa said it was the 2010 Cup championship that is his fondest memory of his playing days.
"That moment you never forget," Hossa said. "You exactly memorize those feelings and you also enjoy the feelings from winning the second and third Stanley Cups.
"Now when you have more time to think about what we did over a short period of time it almost like starts hitting you, 'Wow, that's what we really did in six years, winning three Cups?'" he added. "We were lucky. We had a great group, great leadership, great coaching and we knew what to do at certain times."
When his contract with the Coyotes finally does run out, Hossa said he would welcome an opportunity to have a role with the Blackhawks organization.
"I'd like to be involved with this hockey team because we have a great relationship," Hossa said. "If there is a certain thing they like me to do and I like that, then why not?"