Rozner: Coach's admiration for Blackhawks' Hossa says it all

  • FILE - In this Saturday, March 25, 2017, file photo, Chicago Blackhawks right wing Marian Hossa (81) prepares for a face off against the Florida Panthers during the first period of an NHL hockey game, in Sunrise, Fla. Hossa will miss the entire 2017-18 NHL season because of a progressive skin disorder, the team announced the news early Wednesday, June 21, 2017.

    FILE - In this Saturday, March 25, 2017, file photo, Chicago Blackhawks right wing Marian Hossa (81) prepares for a face off against the Florida Panthers during the first period of an NHL hockey game, in Sunrise, Fla. Hossa will miss the entire 2017-18 NHL season because of a progressive skin disorder, the team announced the news early Wednesday, June 21, 2017.

 
 
Updated 6/25/2017 7:03 PM

When the news broke that Marian Hossa was done for the year and probably forever, minds raced in many directions.

First and foremost was the pain Hossa must have endured, and how bad it must be for him now to give up his career when there was more left in the tank.

 

There was the organization perspective, and what it would mean to try to fill those skates.

There were the cap implications for a team perpetually up against the number.

There was the grateful fan base that grew to love and admire Hossa's nightly effort.

What did not immediately come to mind was what it would mean for a man who learned to rely on Hossa for whatever was necessary, be it a big goal, a crucial assist, the penalty kill, the power play, the final minute of a game or simply to make the right play for the team.

That's a powerful piece of manpower gone in an instant.

So when I asked Joel Quenneville if he had any sense at the end of the season that this was possible, the Chicago Blackhawks head coach smiled that huge Quenneville smile.

But he wasn't laughing. It was the kind of smile that occurs naturally when trying not to cry.

"I tried to put it off, hoping it wouldn't come to this day," Quenneville said. "All of a sudden, it's real.

by signing up you agree to our terms of service
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"As a coach there are certain things you can rely on, and (Hossa) was always the go-to guy in a lot of situations where you're looking for your team to be predictable."

When all about him were losing their heads and turning the puck over at the blue line -- either blue line -- Hossa knew how to get it deep or get it out.

This is no small matter under pressure.

"I'm still holding out hope that we can get Hoss," Quenneville said. "When you look at his last few years, there's no sign he was slowing down or what he was really dealing with."

But not really holding out hope. More like not wanting to deal with the reality that such a reliable force will probably never play again.

Such a wonderful security blanket and such a shock for a man who sends players out onto the ice, who touches jerseys from behind the bench with the hope that they will perform as asked.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"You lose 17 minutes of playing the right way," Quenneville said. "You lose young kids watching how he plays."

GM Stan Bowman went so far as to say, in so many words, that the addition of the veteran Hossa in 2009 might have been the most important of the last decade.

"Marian is probably the biggest reason the culture changed," Bowman said. "When he came here, we had a lot of young players.

"You think back to that 2009 season. (Jonathan) Toews and (Patrick) Kane and (Brent) Seabrook and (Duncan) Keith, they were all young guys trying to learn their way in the NHL.

"Here we have Marian come in and he handles every situation with the perfect amount of humility and class. He was a great role model.

"Off the ice he helped establish a tradition and culture here that's going to live on for decades and decades."

That was off the ice.

"When you look at his on-ice performance, I think of his patented move where he would sprint full speed, backcheck and steal the puck," Bowman said. "That's something we're seeing some of our younger players do now."

That's something Brandan Saad began to do before he was traded to Columbus, something he will bring back to the Hawks now, the Hossa clone returning to fill so many of those gaps for Quenneville.

"(Hossa) did it for so long for us. We got a little spoiled," Quenneville said. "Last year, we used him in a different role, giving us some structure and some predictability on another line.

"When his production might have been lagging, he would still be playing the right way defensively and still making a contribution to the team game.

"His minutes were always important minutes."

Coaches often like players. Sometimes they even love them. But it's not often they openly express such admiration and gratitude.

It tells you everything you will ever need to know about Marian Hossa.

brozner@dailyherald.com

• Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

0 Comments
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 
Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.