If you were in the United Center atrium on Thursday evening, you wouldn’t be able to tell that the Chicago Blackhawks are heading into a lengthy rebuild, as a sea of red sweaters packed the space to see one of their favorites rejoin the organization that he helped win three Stanley Cups from 2010 to 2015.
Marian Hossa, away from the team for four years, returned to the place he said gave him the best years of his life.
Hossa’s 12-year, $ 64.2 million deal in July 0f 2009 – the final piece that helped propel their talented young core to three Stanley Cups in six seasons – is, for my money, the greatest free-agent signing in the history of Chicago sports. Rocky Wirtz knew that Marian Hossa was the missing piece in Chicago that summer. Last night he said that if he’s being honest, he was only hoping for one Stanley Cup championship when he signed Hossa.
When asked why he chose Chicago over other destinations last night, Hossa said he came to Chicago because he wanted to win. The dream for Marian Hossa was always hoisting a Stanley Cup, and he knew that Chicago was the place where he would realize that dream.
“I am really grateful and thankful for this cause as a kid, you dream to play one day in National Hockey League, in the best league in the world,” Hossa said. “Then your goal is to win the Stanley Cup. Your goal is not going in the rafters, or your goal is not going to the Hall of Fame. But I guess somebody really liked my game over those years and the success we had.
Hossa did all three, winning three Stanley Cups, getting inducted into the Hall of Fame, and now, he’ll have his jersey retired by the Blackhawks as Hossa becomes the first of multiple jersey retirements we will see from the One Goal era.
Hossa will become the eighth player in franchise history to have his number retired, joining Glenn Hall (No. 1), Keith Magnuson (No. 3), Pierre Pilote (No. 3), Bobby Hull (No. 9), Denis Savard (No. 18), Stan Mikita (No. 21) and Tony Esposito (No. 35). Elite company with more to follow for sure. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews will undoubtedly join Hossa in the United Center rafters in the coming years. Duncan Keith has a solid case as well. But for now, No. 81 will be the first.
Hossa was choked up by the massive turnout by Blackhawks fans on Thursday night, and he was choked up by the overwhelming support by the fan base in his return to Chicago.
“I don’t do it often; I’m not an emotional person, ”Hossa said. “I’m a little even, nothing really got me as much. But for some reason, at the end, I started realizing certain things, and I started losing my voice a little bit, as you could tell. It was a really, really special thing to realize how many people showed up there.
“I knew there was going to be some, but it was like a full atrium of people, and it was just amazing to see the support I get and the appreciation. It’s amazing to be back after four years and see the warm welcome in the city. ”
Hossa spent four years away from the team, but this week’s time spent around the team and the fans, first for Jonathan Toews’ 1,000th game celebration on Sunday night and then last night for his celebration, has reminded him of how much he loves being here. Hossa said that he is working with the team to create a permanent position within the organization to keep the Hall of Famer in town, a place he called his second home.
“This city is like my second home, and it’s always going to be that way. Chicago is a special place to me. ”
Hossa said that he’s not sure what that position might look like, but he’s excited about the opportunity to be able to come to Chicago and work with the Blackhawks in whatever capacity they land on.
“We’ve been talking for a while already,” Hossa said. “I would love to be connected with the organization because we had so much success, my daughter was born here, and I love to come to visit this city and work for the Blackhawks in certain areas. We haven’t reached the final [agreement to] know what exactly it’s going to be, but I know it’s going to be something.
“I’m definitely looking forward to it, and when we’re going to have more information, we’ll let you guys know.”
It’s a new era in Blackhawks hockey with Kyle Davidson taking over and embarking on a rebuild but that doesn’t mean there that we can’t enjoy the memories of one of the greatest on-ice eras in the long history of this original six franchise . Marian Hossa’s return to the franchise is just the first.