When Marian Hossa missed last season with a progressive skin disorder, it left a huge void in the Chicago Blackhawks lineup. They lost a forward who was as good at preventing goals as he was at scoring them, who was a big part of every facet of their game, from 5-on-5 to the power play to the penalty kill.
Now that void is permanent.
Hossa told the Slovakian newspaper Novy Cas he is done playing hockey. The 39-year-old has three years remaining on the 12-year contract he signed with the Blackhawks on July 1, 2009, but played his last game for Chicago on April 20, 2017, against the Nashville Predators in Game 4 of the Western Conference First Round.
"Since then, I haven't (put the gear on). Not even a single one time," Hossa told the newspaper. "I've been on the ice couple of times just to skate with my daughters, but I haven't had my hockey gear on."
Hossa's statement was disappointing but not surprising. He was on long-term injured reserve last season and the chances of him returning to play never looked good.
At the Blackhawks' final media session of the season April 10, general manager Stan Bowman said, "[Hossa's] physical condition hasn't improved, so at this point there's no indication he's going to play next year, either."
Video: CBJ@CHI: Hossa slides home a backhand with nice move
Hossa had 1,134 points (525 goals, 609 assists) in 1,309 games in 19 NHL seasons for the Ottawa Senators, Atlanta Thrashers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Detroit Red Wings and Blackhawks. He had 149 points (52 goals, 97 assists) in 205 NHL playoff games and won the Stanley Cup three times with the Blackhawks.
"Great player," Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane said Saturday from the IIHF World Championships in Denmark. "Great two-way player. Great human being. Everything you want in a pro. You could kind of sense it was coming with his condition. We'll miss him, for sure."
Hossa's impact goes beyond the great statistics. He led by example and was a critical part of Chicago's championships. Coach Joel Quenneville said at the April 10 media session that the Blackhawks missed Hossa in so many areas last season.
"Our team predictability, as far as structure, started off OK, and as the year went on it wasn't as effective as it's been in the past, and he was always the leader in that area," Quenneville said. "Technically, he was always in the right spot, he did everything you would want to do, backside pressure, positioning in his own end, the way he would pursue pucks, come up with pucks, keep pucks. Those were areas we lost a lot in."
Former Blackhawks forward Jamal Mayers called Hossa "the most humble, approachable superstar I've ever been around."
"His ability to lead by example is uncanny," Mayers said. "There are very few players who have a legitimate chance every single year to compete for the Selke [Trophy] (as best defensive forward in the NHL) as a winger, and he didn't get enough credit for how good he was defensively. The amount of work he does, the backside pressure that he provided, how heavy he was on pucks was certainly noticed and missing this past season."
Video: MIN@CHI: Hossa breaks in and slaps one past Kuemper
Hossa enjoyed a renaissance in 2016-17, scoring 26 goals in 73 games playing mostly on the top line with Jonathan Toews after he scored 13 in 64 games the previous season and 22 in 82 games in 2014-15.
Hossa always set a great example, but that was especially true for any new or young players with the Blackhawks. Washington Capitals defenseman Michal Kempny, who was a rookie with Chicago in 2016-17, said he learned a lot from Hossa.
"It was good to see how he prepared every practice, every game. He's a great professional," Kempny said. "He was kind of a quiet guy but, you know, he was a leader on the ice. He scored big goals and really important goals. Just a leader. He's a great person and big player. I really enjoyed playing with him."
The Blackhawks clearly missed his presence last season, be it on the ice or in the dressing room. They'll miss it the next three seasons too.
"He played in every situation, against other teams' top lines, he was a big body, he was heavy. He could score huge goals, he killed penalties, he was responsible defensively and make the other team's best players play defense," Mayers said. "I liken him to [former Detroit Red Wings forward Henrik] Zetterberg in his prime, as far as the player who can play in any situation.
"For me, he's a first-ballot Hall of Famer. No question about it."
NHL.com staff writer Tom Gulitti and correspondent Aaron Vickers contributed to this report.