Just two weeks prior to his induction, Marian Hossa laced up his skates alongside his brother. Doing so for the first time in four years, he was doing the thing that punched him a ticket to the Esso Great Hall.
Checking to see if he had anything left in the tank, the Slovakia native was rather pleased with his performance. “Only in the last two weeks, I’ve been on the ice two times, but only for 40 minutes,” he said. “I wanted to see after four years if I still got it.”
With all indications pointing towards a smooth return, the 42-year-old forward made his leisurely skate a family festivity. “I went on the ice with my brother in the last two weeks, we decided it was going to be fun, it was going to be a great experience and a great memory for our kids,” he said.
A 19-year veteran of the National Hockey League, Hossa was forced into early retirement due to a progressive skin disorder in 2017-18. Under contract at the time with the Chicago Blackhawks, he’d yet to skate in a game and was later placed on the long-term injured reserve.
Officially diagnosed with eczema, it was his body’s way of hinting that his career was near-over. A decorated one split between five teams, the former 12th overall pick began breaking out into red blotches. A condition that was initially manageable had quickly spun out of hand, as he struggled to put on equipment.
“Coming to the season [from summer], when I started circling in practices and back-to-back games, that’s where the skin got irritated,” Hossa said. While causing his untimely departure from the game he loves, the three-time Stanley Cup champion came to terms with not needing to routinely get into gear.
“For some reason, I didn’t need to go in equipment, and I feel relaxed that I don’t have to put something on,” said the former Blackhawks alternate captain. “But now, like the last two weeks, when I said I went on the ice, I got the feel for the stick and I shot the puck, and I was like, ‘Ahh, I miss that.’”
Now the head of a company in his native Stará Ľubovňa, he still keeps connected to the sport, watching the game on television whenever he can. “I love the game, I love to watch it, I watch the National Hockey League and watch the highlights every morning,” he said.
An accomplished player from a career of his own, Hossa, among the newest honoured members, became the first player in NHL history to play in three-consecutive Stanley Cup Finals. He did so after his lone season with the Red Wings in 2008-09 under General Manager Ken Holland.
Entering the hall together 13 years later, the now-Oilers GM expressed his praise for the Slovakian superstar. “Well, first off, you look at the size of him, I liked that he was a big strong, powerful man, with skill, and he loved to back-check,” Holland said. “It was a nice combination. A character guy, big guy with skill, he could play left-wing, he could play right-wing and he was versatile.”
Enjoying his time with Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk in Detroit, it only helped to set the former first-round pick on the path to success, which he later found with the Blackhawks. Signing a landmark 12-year contract to play in Chicago, that saw the veteran free agent mark his journey to the Hall.
“I can’t believe it,” said an overjoyed Hossa. “Today, I am in the Hockey Hall of Fame and with my two idols. It [the ring] reflects 19 beautiful seasons in the National Hockey League. Hockey has given me so much, I met lots of great people around the league, and as a little guy, I always dreamed of winning with a team, but this is a big, big bonus that I am here, and I still can’t believe that I’m here.”
While waiting longer than most to be inducted in Toronto, the six-time NHL All-Star joins a stellar class of legends. Entering with Kim St. Pierre, Jarome Iginla, Kevin Lowe and Doug Wilson, he looks back fondly at the moments that got him here.
“I think definitely the one moment of my first cup when Patrick Kane scored a big goal in overtime that stands out,” Hossa said with a smile.
With his family in attendance to commemorate this occasion, Hossa joins Peter Šťastný and Stan Mikita as the third Slovak native forever enshrined in hockey history.
“This honour means so much to me,” he expressed with elation. “I would like to thank everyone who voted for me. I have learned so much about life through the game of hockey and am very appreciative of this recognition.”