Blackhawks Cup winner Marian Hossa gets into Hockey Hall of Fame on first try
Marian Hossa scored 525 goals over his illustrious career, 186 of which came with the Blackhawks.
He also dished out 609 assists.
And won three Stanley Cups.
But according to former teammate Kris Versteeg, none of those numbers adequately illustrate why Hossa was elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Wednesday in his first year of eligibility.
"If you watched his entire game, that's where you get the true appreciation of the extra dynamic he could bring to a team," Versteeg said. "That alone gets him into the Hall of Fame. Because everything that he did away from the puck changed outcomes of each and every game. ...
"And not only that, I think it changed a little bit of hockey in itself. Just seeing a star player work that hard to get back was so impressive. ... That was always attributed to him because anywhere I went they always showed clips of Marian Hossa."
Hossa was golfing Tuesday when he got a call from his agent that Wednesday could indeed be a special one. The winger didn't want to get his hopes up, but when his phone buzzed at 9 p.m. Slovakian time, he got awfully excited.
"It was a phone call that I will never forget for the rest of my life. It was an amazing moment and I'm still processing what's happening," Hossa said during a 90-minute teleconference that included this year's five other inductees. "It's 1 a.m. (now) and I'm having the first bottle of wine already done.
"I don't know how long this press conference is going to go, so good luck to me."
Also elected were former Blackhawks defenseman Doug Wilson, Jarome Iginla, Kevin Lowe, Ken Holland and Kim St-Pierre. Wilson, a left-shot defenseman, was drafted sixth overall by the Hawks in 1977. A Norris Trophy winner after his 39-goal campaign in 1981-82, he finished with 225 goals and 554 assists for the franchise from 1977-91.
Hossa, who was forced out of the game due to a skin condition, had eight 30-goal seasons and three times had 40 or more.
He played in back-to-back Stanley Cup Finals in 2008 and '09, ending up on the losing side each time. Using those setbacks to grow as a person and a player, Hossa then helped spearhead the Hawks to their first Stanley Cup title in 49 years in 2010.
"Going through the failures make you stronger," Hossa said. "I learned from my previous mistakes maybe. I just tried to take the Games 6 or Games 7s a little bit easier; prepare for the game like it was a regular game."
Hossa was the first one to touch the Cup after captain Jonathan Toews sought out the veteran on the Wells Fargo Center ice.
"We were all screaming as loud as we could for Hoss," Versteeg said. "For him to win and to be the person he is, first and foremost. Never met a better guy in the game.
"But (also) a player that's been through everything. For us to all see that; I mean I remember screaming like I was a child."
Said Hossa: "What a great memory. I've still got a picture in my office from when I first touched the Stanley Cup."
The Hawks signed Hossa to a 12-year contract during the 2009 off-season. It is considered by most the best free-agent signing in Chicago sports history. His influence on and off the ice helped propel a solid group of young, emerging players to an epic six-year run unmatched in team annals.
Versteeg still remembers what it was like the first time he saw Hossa practice.
"He didn't play until November and -- I swear -- it was like watching a Ferrari skate down the ice," Versteeg said. "I still remember me and (Patrick) Kane looked at each other and we're like, 'That's a professional player right there. Look at him.' "
Hossa scored 24 goals and had 27 assists in just 57 games that season, then added 3 scores and 12 assists in the playoffs. The one everyone remembers came in Game 5 of the first round against Nashville -- a goal that gave the Hawks a 5-4 OT victory just seconds after Hossa served a five-minute boarding penalty.
Ten weeks later Hossa and Versteeg were sitting next to each other in the United Center dressing room with the Stanley Cup Final tied at two games a piece. Versteeg -- as he did before every game -- went to grab them both energy bars.
And then disaster struck as Versteeg spilled coffee in Hossa's stall.
"I remember before the game, I was so nervous and shaking because I don't know if Hoss is mad at me. Is this a bad omen?" Versteeg said. "I've got to play the game of my life tonight to make up for spilling Hoss' coffee.
"And I did. I had a goal and 2 assists, and he played well (in a 7-4 Hawks victory). I was like, 'OK. Thank goodness that spilling his coffee didn't screw us over.' "
Three nights later, the two were sitting together just before Game 6 and Versteeg thinks: "Should I spill his coffee because it worked last time?' "
And guess what? He did.
Said Versteeg: "I went by again and spilled it, and he goes: 'What the heck, Steegy!?'
"I spilled it on purpose. He probably doesn't know that to this day. Obviously we won. So that was kind of a story between me and him that no one knows."
Hossa made the Hawks a dangerous team all the way through 2016-17 when he poured in 26 goals despite turning 38 that January. Two months after the Hawks were swept by Nashville in the playoffs, the Hawks said Hossa would not play during the 2017-18 season due to a skin condition.
He never returned to the ice and was traded to Arizona on July 12, 2018, in a salary-cap move.
Versteeg remembers seeing rashes on Hossa's shins and elbows "a lot" -- even going back to 2009. So when the news broke that Hossa was out, Versteeg had a different reaction than most.
"Everyone's like, 'It's sad the way it ended,'" Versteeg said. "But I mean to be brutally honest, what else was he going to accomplish?
"That's what I just think. I mean you can add to the legacy, but the legacy's already written."
One that just culminated with an invitation to the Hall of Fame.