Hossa thankful he's 'back to normal'
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More than an NHL season was in jeopardy. So too might have been the career of a likely Hall-of-Fame player.
Concussions severe enough to warrant exiting the ice on a stretcher provide that kind of threat.
"You think about those things," Marian Hossa said Tuesday. "You got so much time on your hands that you start thinking about different things. It crossed my mind. But I knew when I was getting better, that was a good sign. I took my time, and I got back to normal."
Normal for Hossa?
Playing hockey at an elite level and, for the fourth time in six years for the 34-year-old Blackhawks winger, skating in the Stanley Cup Finals.
It took several months for Hossa for recover from the illegal hit to the head delivered by Raffi Torres in Game 3 of the Blackhawks' opening-round playoff series with Phoenix last spring. Hossa's season was over — and three games later, so was the Blackhawks'.
"I thought I was 'right' after the (Blackhawks) convention when I came here to work out," Hossa said. "But as soon as I was skating and started doing more exercises on the ice, I realized I was not myself yet. For me, it worked out that there was the lockout so I could take a couple of extra months to skate on my own and get in shape. I was doing the (stationary) bicycle and just sitting there, just pedalling."
When the lockout ended and the season started in January, Hossa was ready to resume his old form. His hot start coincided with his team's. He finished with Hossa-like numbers: 31 points (17 goals) in 40 games.
"He can make plays with the puck, he can score, he's got a great shot and he takes care of a lot of things defensively," said Patrick Sharp, who skated on a line with Hossa and Jonathan Toews during Tuesday morning's practice in advance of Game 1 of the finals tonight against Boston. "You got the big Hoss man backchecking, stealing pucks and keeping plays alive. ... He's one of those special players that we're happy to have on our team."
If the Blackhawks win the Cup, Hossa could merit consideration for the Conn Smyth Trophy, as his 14 points (7 goals) in 17 games are tied for the team lead with Sharp and Patrick Kane. Regardless, No. 81 has been a role model for his teammates, including 20-year-old Brandon Saad, who was 6 when Hossa made his NHL debut with Ottawa in the 1997-98 season. Hossa played for Pittsburgh and Detroit in the 2008 and 2009 Finals, respectively, before hoisting the Cup as a Blackhawk in 2010.
"It's been incredible," said Saad, who often skated on a line with Hossa during the regular season. "Watching him growing up, being from Pittsburgh and seeing him play in Pittsburgh, he's a phenomenal player. But you never (appreciate it) until you're around him every day."
"It's no fluke that he's been such a successful player in this league and has been playing for great teams," center Marcus Kruger said. "He's a guy that always works hard. He never takes a day off, basically. I think that's something everyone on our team can learn from."
A matchup with Boston means Hossa gets to go head to head against his neighbor, former Norris Trophy winner and fellow Slovak Zdeno Chara, he of the 6-foot-9, 255-pound frame.
"I try to joke with him because he likes to be serious all the time on the ice," Hossa said. "I know he doesn't like to talk on the ice. I just try to tell some funny stories on the faceoff and hopefully make him laugh a little bit."
Hossa is glad to be playing hockey again, and laughing.
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