Marian Hossa was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame on Wednesday but said he believes he could still be playing if not for a progressive skin disorder that ended his career after the 2016-17 season.
"Let's put it this way: I knew I had a few years left," the 41-year-old forward said Thursday. "If I had no skin condition and didn't have to battle with it, and eating the (anti-allergic) pills each day, I'd definitely like to have played a few more years.
"I was still in good shape, I was still able to skate with the young guys and I scored something like 26 goals my last year. So I still felt good, I felt like I had lots of energy left. But you don't want to gamble with things like those pills, so I tried to stay safe."
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When Hossa was announced as part of the Hall of Fame Class of 2020, which included Jarome Iginla, Kevin Lowe, Doug Wilson, and Kim St-Pierre in the Players category and Ken Holland in the Builders category, he joined Chris Pronger as the only players elected while still under contract.
The 12-year contract Hossa signed with the Chicago Blackhawks on July 1, 2009, runs through the 2020-21 season. Hossa's final NHL game was played three years ago (April 20, 2017), making him eligible for the Hall this year. Pronger, a defenseman whose career ended because of post-concussion syndrome in the fall of 2011 and who was under contract through 2016-17, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2015.
"That's an amazing stat," Hossa said. "It doesn't happen often, in this case it did. I'm grateful they picked me [Wednesday] night, and it's amazing to be part of it."
Video: Iginla, Hossa lead 2020 Hockey Hall of Fame Class
Hossa scored 45 points (26 goals, 19 assists) in 73 games in 2016-17, his final NHL season, and 1,134 points (525 goals, 609 assists) in 1,309 games with the Ottawa Senators, Atlanta Thrashers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Detroit Red Wings and Blackhawks. He won the Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks in 2010, 2013 and 2015.
The Blackhawks announced June 21, 2017, that Hossa would miss the 2017-18 season because of the skin condition, and he told a Slovakian newspaper in May 2018 that he would not play again. He was traded to the Arizona Coyotes by the Blackhawks on July 12, 2018.
A native of Stara Lubovna, Slovakia, Hossa is the third player born in what is now Slovakia elected to the Hall of Fame, joining Stan Mikita (inducted in 1983) and Peter Stastny (1998). Mikita, whose hometown of Sokolce has been part of Slovakia since 1945, scored 1,467 points (541 goals, 926 assists) in 1,396 NHL games, all with Chicago. Stastny, who was born in Bratislava, scored 1,239 points (450 goals, 789 assists) in 977 games with the Quebec Nordiques, New Jersey Devils and St. Louis Blues.
"I got lucky to know Stan Mikita," Hossa said. "I had some time, when I was injured, to have a chance to chat with him and didn't have to rush the practice and we had a great time together. He told me a lot of different stories, and it was just amazing to spend time with a Hall of Famer, an icon in Chicago and guy born in (what is now) Slovakia. To me, that meant a lot. I met his family, and I'm still in contact with his family.
"Peter, I know what he did. He made a name for Slovakian hockey in the National Hockey League with the Stastny brothers (Peter, Marian and Anton). They did an unbelievable job in Quebec, and I had Peter as my general manager on the national team, and I know him, and I know what type of player he was. To be with this company is amazing."