After that he won two more Stanley Cups in 2013 and 2015 – all with the Chicago Blackhawks.
“Each one was exceptional, but you never forget when you win it for the first time. Especially for me, after the two failed finals before. I will never forget the moment when Jonathan Toews passed it to me in Philadelphia and I felt the weight of the Cup,” said Marian Hossa when he met Slovak journalists in his hometown of Trencin one day after the announcement of his induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Wednesday night.
The Slovak legend accumulated amazing stats as he scored 525 goals and 1,134 points in 1,309 games during 19 NHL seasons and notched 149 points (52 goals and 97 assists) in the playoffs. The Slovak native is also the only player in NHL history who played in the Stanley Cup Final in three consecutive seasons with three different teams.
Despite most of the questions aiming at his successful career, once he began to thank his loved ones, his voice started to tremble and Hossa almost cried. “Sorry, I didn’t expect it to be so hard,” said the three-time Stanley Cup champion with a shaky voice, but after that, he resumed to answer the questions.
How did you react when you got the call with the big news from the Hockey Hall of Fame?
When I saw the Toronto number on my phone, my heartbeat quickened. When I got the call from Lanny McDonald, the chairman of the board of the Hockey Hall of Fame, it was something indescribable. He asked me if I knew why he was calling me and I said I guessed something, but rather let him tell me. And he started congratulating me and welcoming me to the Hockey Hall of Fame. That’s the moment I´ll never forget as well. I still haven’t realized what happened, but I really appreciate it.
The Hockey Hall of Fame has already two players born in Slovakia in it – Stan Mikita and Peter Stastny. That has to be really great company.
It’s unbelievable that I could join these two great hockey players of our history. I had the opportunity to know both of them and I still can’t believe my name will be with these amazing players and all other members. It’s a big honour for me to be part of the Hockey Hall of Fame because at least fourteen members of eighteen representatives in the selection committee have to vote for each inductee to get in.
During your career, you became one of the best two-way forwards. Do you think this is a reason why you were selected before other players?
Perhaps my stats were stronger than the stats of the others too and maybe history. I will never know what exactly took a stand for me. I know there were a couple of other great players like my good friend and former teammate from Sweden Daniel Alfredsson, who had a chance to join the Hockey Hall of Fame and I definitely know he will get there later.
When did you realize, you are changing to that unique two-way player?
Since I came to the NHL my first coach in Ottawa, Jacques Martin, was teaching me a more defensive style, but I was still a 40-goal scorer. Things started to change slowly when I joined the Chicago Blackhawks. I saw there was enough offensive talent and I wasn’t looking up for stats that much as before, so I started to become more and more that kind of two-way player. I tried to put it into the system and probably I was the missing piece beside the superstars of Chicago, which brought us the three Stanley Cups.
It wasn’t an easy period for me. I told myself that I know I was a good hockey player. Even the media tagged me with an inability to team success. But I couldn’t believe it and after I lost my second final, I started to prepare myself much harder, because I knew there would be a chance to sign a contract as a free agent with a certain team which will have big expectations. Then Chicago showed up, but at that time we didn’t know it would all turn to such great years. I wanted to play for a young team with the potential to win the Cup, but I didn’t expect it to happen straight away in that first year.
Do you think one of the deciding factors of your induction would be your great hockey story?
I think so. It’s a historic and special moment for the NHL when one player reached the finals with three different teams. That could be one of the parts of it, but I think not the deciding one. Because I know they look up for results. I had excellent plus/minus stats and despite playing two-way hockey style I had good offensive numbers too. I think that decided for me.
Is it possible that more players from Trencin will join the Hockey Hall of Fame in the future?
Of course, we have guys who can make it. Zdeno Chara will be one of them for sure. It’s only a question of time, how long he will be playing. If his career will continue for more years or until the age of 50, we have to wait a little longer. You never know when he’ll end it. But if there would be another guy from Trencin, Zdeno Chara is definitely that fella who will join the Hockey Hall of Fame in the future.
The last time you played the game was in 2017. How do you remember the change of lifestyle from an athlete to a retired player?
I started to realize it when I took off my equipment after the last playoff game against Nashville. I had a skin disorder for a long time. Despite everyone in the locker room knowing it, no one would even have thought that it could be my last game. I remember that moment very vividly.
How would you describe it?
I was sitting in one of the Nashville locker rooms and thought that this could be the end of my hockey career. The final decision came up after a while when I was talking with the general manager and coach. Of course, they didn’t want me to end my career, but both of them understood and took it as professionals. Then I started to find out that life is also about something else than just hockey. I spent more time with my family and little daughters. I was lucky to play 19 seasons in the best league in the world. I would be really sad if those health problems caught me at the beginning of my career.
Have you gotten an offer for a movie about you?
No, I think there is so much time for that. Maybe I will write a book later when I will have some time. I realized things in the world get together step by step. That’s why I don’t like to push on that. So we’ll see what the future will bring.