Receiving a call from the Hockey Hall of Fame is perhaps the ultimate achievement for a hockey player. It takes a lot to win a Stanley Cup, but it takes even more to be cemented among the game's all-time best. A distinct few don't wait long, just three years after their playing careers are over. Others wait, year after year, perhaps wondering if a call will ever come from the Toronto area as Spring turns to Summer.
A pair of former Blackhawks were on each end of the spectrum Wednesday as the Hall elected its 2020 Inductees.
Marian Hossa, having achieved demigod status in Chicago, seemed to many a shoo-in for selection in just his first year of eligibility after a 19-year NHL career across five teams and a trio of Cups in his final stop. Now living back in his native Slovakia, he was grateful to even be in the conversation and was ready for a call, should it come: "My wife was making dinner and I said 'Either there's going to be a call from Canada or not, so we'll see.'"
Doug Wilson, though, had started to believe one might never come -- not disappointed in that fact, but rather unwilling to include himself among the legendary names forever enshrined within the Great Hall. He had, after all, been eligible in 23 Summers prior without his phone ringing. Instead, he and his wife, Kathy, were enjoying time with their grandkids by the pool at their California home when his phone rang: "I'll be honest with you, it caught me off guard."
What both men heard on the other end of the line was Hockey Hall of Fame Chairman Lanny McDonald, welcoming them to the Hall's latest class alongside Jarome Iginla, Kevin Lowe, Canadian women's national team goalie Kim St-Pierre and Ken Holland, longtime Red Wings and now Oilers General Manager elected in the Builder's category.
"The phone rings at 9 p.m. Slovakia time and I said, 'Well, this could be it,'" Hossa continued. "(McDonald) gave me the call and told me the news and I think that's a phone call I will never forget for the rest of my life."
The veteran's dogged pursuit of a Stanley Cup brought Hossa to Chicago in the Summer of 2009 following a pair of Stanley Cup Final defeats -- one as a Penguin to the Red Wings, the next with roles reversed.
The up-and-coming Blackhawks needed one last spark to get them to the peak of the mountain, and Hossa was the perfect catalyst. He had 51 points in 57 regular-season games in that magical first season, and another 15 in 22 playoff contests as he finally hoisted Lord Stanley, third time indeed the charm.
"When Patrick Kane scored the overtime goal in Game 6 in Philadelphia, a huge relief. A lot of players jumping off the bench to celebrate, but (I'm) going to the referees and asking them 'Did it cross the line?'" he recalled. "Unbelievable moment in my career ... to have the Cup above my head when Jonathan (Toews) gave me the Cup, what a great memory."
Hossa spend eight seasons in Chicago, adding Cups in 2013 and 2015, while adding 415 points (186G, 229A) in 534 regular-season games to his 700-some career points in nearly 800 games prior. The dominant two-way winger, who was forced to leave the game before the 2017-18 season when a painful skin disorder that had ailed him over his final seasons became too much to bear, said he never could've dreamed of his career success -- much less a Hall of Fame nod -- when he was drafted in the first round of the 1997 draft by the Ottawa Senators.
"This is an amazing day for me and my family," Hossa said. "This is definitely something special to be in the top, top players and the people in the National Hockey League. It means so much to me, I am humbled and really thankful."
Wilson was a staple on the Blackhawks blue line for 14 years, from his rookie season in 1977-78 through the 1990-91 campaign. He stands as Chicago's top all-time offensive defenseman, holding the record for goals (225) and assists (554) by blueliners, while also ranking ninth overall in franchise games played. He's one of just four Blackhawks to have won the Norris Trophy as the league's top defenseman.
He retired from the NHL following the 1992-93 season and has served as the San Jose Sharks' General Manager since 2003, his name becoming more synonymous with that role than his Hall-of-Fame-worthy career spanning across three decades.
"Very much appreciated," Wilson said of the moment he got the news after 24 long years since he became eligible for the Hall. "To be able to share it with my kids, and my grandkids all here -- it was a very unsuspecting call."
The 62-year-old was so floored by the moment, he wanted McDonald to break the news to his biggest supporter, his wife, Kathy.
"This is the first year that I have been asked if I would tell either a wife or significant other that they are newest member of the Hockey Hall of Fame," McDonald, who has had the honor of making Hall calls for five years, recalled to reporters. "To be able to share that with Kathy on the phone and have her break down a little bit and cry, you know how much it means, not only to Doug, but to Kathy and the rest of the family. It was a pretty cool moment that I certainly won't forget for a long, long time."
More than anything, Wilson said he considers himself fortunate to have crossed paths with so many great people in the game of hockey, especially in his 14 years as a Blackhawk.
"My first roommate was Stan Mikita. I got to play with Keith Magnuson, one of the finest people that ever walked this Earth. And Bobby Orr, and it goes on and on.
"For me, this game has given me way more than I've given to it. It's a privilege to be on the call with each other, these five people ... It truly hasn't sunk in."