One of the best decisions Marian Hossa ever made was to sign a 12-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks on July 1, 2009.
As for the toughest?
That came eight seasons later when Hossa was forced to retire due to a painful skin condition.
To be sure, it stung to walk away early because he certainly hadn’t lost his love of the game. Worse yet, he could still play at an extremely high level, as evidenced by the 26 goals he poured in during the 2016-17 season.
“(It) wasn’t easy,” Hossa said Thursday of the decision to call it quits. “(In) one way, I felt like I had lots in my tank and I felt like I could at least play another couple seasons. I felt good. I scored almost 30 goals that year.
“The skin condition was getting really out of hand. In the morning and before I went to bed, I have to eat those pills to keep the skin kind of level. But that wasn’t the route to go.”
The path became clearer after Hossa spoke with specialists at the Mayo Clinic. Soon after, he told the Hawks he was done.
“I realized I can’t play a sport and eat chemicals and thinking it’s OK. It’s not OK,” said Hossa, who still had four years remaining on his contract at the time. “The specialists told me I did the right thing because it was like chemotherapy. They were such strong pills. …
“So my mind was even more clear to … retire from hockey. It wasn’t my choice, but I have to do it for (my) health.”
Hossa was in Chicago for a week, first to take part in Jonathan Toews’ 1,000-game celebration last Sunday and then to sign a one-day contract Thursday so he could retire as a Hawk. Then, during the first period of the Hawks’ 2-0 loss to Seattle, it was announced Hossa’s No. 81 would go into the rafters next season.
“This is amazing news for me and my family and I’m overwhelmed,” Hossa said. “This still didn’t sink (in).”
Emotions got the best of Hossa during his contract signing ceremony as he looked out at the solid wall of fans – some wearing his sweater – while answering a final question from former teammate Adam Burish.
Before that, there was time to remember a time we may never see again in Chicago.
Hossa was part of eight playoff appearances, four trips to the conference finals and three Stanley Cup runs.
Here are some of his thoughts on the glory days:
On why he decided to come to Chicago as an unrestricted free agent:
A: I wanted to win. I just thought (the) Chicago Blackhawks were coming up and a potential team to be really good for a long time. Playing for an Original Six (team), great city, great fan base. It was an easy choice. … It was my best decision ever.
On how it felt to lift the 2010 Stanley Cup after being eliminated while on the Penguins and Red Wings the two previous seasons:
A: “When you’re a little kid you’re dreaming and my dream was to play in a Stanley Cup (Final). You fail first time. You fail second time. My mentality was, ‘Don’t stop – because you know you’re good … you know you have a good team.
“So don’t think too much. Just go out and play and work hard and good things will happen. Finally, in Philadelphia, (Patrick Kane) scored the biggest goal. What a relief when Jonathan Toews hand me the Cup.
“For the first time I felt the weight of the Cup and I said, ‘Wow. This is why I play.’ “
On the emotions of “17 seconds” during the Hawks’ Cup-clinching Game 6 victory in Boston in 2013:
A: That was crazy. We were down (and) that was a really, really tough game. Boston played really well. We pulled the goalie and had the pressure in their zone. … We scored a goal – the whole bench went nuts.
“We were still celebrating. Before we sit down from celebrating … we start watching the game again, there was another goal. ‘You’re like, WHAT?’ …
“It was unbelievable and I still have a chill right now thinking about it … I never saw the Boston Garden that quiet.”
On claiming the Stanley Cup in Chicago in 2015 with a 2-0 victory over Tampa Bay in Game 6:
A: “Corey Crawford stood on his head. The whole” D “played excellent. Finally in my third Final when we win I had a little cushion at the end.
“First one (at Philly) end up in overtime – you’re (sitting) on needles. Second one, 17 seconds. You are not sure what’s going on.
“But in the third one you have cushion – 2 goals. Finally in the last couple of minutes you can start enjoying the feeling with all the fans in the building – in your building. It was just an amazing feeling.”