Imrem: Why Marian Hossa reminds me of Cubs great Billy Williams

  • Marian Hossa hoists the Cup at the Hawks Rally at Soldier Field in 2015.

    Marian Hossa hoists the Cup at the Hawks Rally at Soldier Field in 2015. Bob Chwedyk/Daily Herald file photo

 
 
Updated 6/21/2017 4:13 PM

Marian Hossa is right at the top among Chicago athletes who made the Hall of Fame in their respective sports.

Hossa hasn't been enshrined yet, but will be whenever he becomes eligible.

 

Unfortunately, it appears that will be sooner than later due to an allergy that has led to a severe skin condition.

The Blackhawks' news release on Wednesday stated Hossa won't play for the Hawks during the 2017-18 season.

Whether that means Hossa's career is over wasn't clear, but it sure sounds possible.

Regardless, this seems like a good time to review exactly how great a hockey player Hossa has been and what he meant to the Blackhawks the past eight seasons

Included in the assessment has to be how professional, earnest and hardworking Hossa has been since entering the NHL way back in 1998.

I have been trying to think of another local Hall-of-Fame athlete from, say, the past half-century who is similar to Hossa.

Michael Jordan, Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita, Ernie Banks, Gale Sayers, Dick Butkus, Denis Savard and Tony Esposito were too spectacular compared to Hossa's workmanlike style.

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Too much drama accompanied Frank Thomas, while Hossa just went about his business without making even weak waves.

Ron Santo was sort of flamboyant with the heel-clicking after Cubs victories and namesake pizza, while Hossa has been all hockey, all the time.

Greg Maddux is beloved around here but remembered more as an Atlanta Braves player than a Cub, while Hossa's prominence grew as a Hawks champion.

Maybe the answer is the subdued Ryne Sandberg, but he too often was the best player on bad Cub teams while Hossa was an outstanding player on outstanding Hawks teams.

Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman, uh, no.

Wait, it's coming to me, a little late probably because this athlete was as understated as Hossa has been.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

How about Billy Williams?

The Cubs slugger from the 1960s into the 1970s played on some good teams with Banks, Santo and Fergie Jenkins, all fellow Hall-of-Famers.

Like Hossa, Williams quietly went about playing his sport with less fanfare than the others.

While Williams sometimes was taken for granted on a team with Banks, Santo and Jenkins, so was Hossa on a team with Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith.

Maybe that worked to the advantage of both Williams and Hossa. Neither had the intense spotlight that can produce pressure that can distract an athlete from being all that he can be.

For some reason, being on a team featuring four future Hall of Famers never translated into Williams playing in the postseason with the Cubs. However, it didn't prevent him from performing like a champion.

Then there has been Hossa, who from the time he arrived in town fit in with a Hawks core that would win three Stanley Cups.

Perhaps the most distinct similarity of Hossa to Williams is that neither was a look-at-me athlete searching around the locker room for a TV camera, radio reporter's microphone or newspaperman's notepad.

Blackhawks fans can only hope that even at age 39, after a season off, Marian Hossa can resume producing on both ends of the ice like he always has in the past.

If not, there are worse things than ending a career being compared to Billy Williams.

mimrem@dailyherald.com

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