PRAGUE — Marian Hossa shocked the NHL world before the 2017-18 season when he announced that he would no longer play hockey because of a progressive skin disorder that stemmed from an allergic reaction from his equipment.
And while hanging up the skates was tough, Hossa doesn't have any regrets about it. The side effects from the medications weren’t worth it, and he tried everything before making the call to stop playing.
“Definitely it wasn’t an easy decision because I still felt like I had a lot in the tank to give,” Hossa said in an exclusive interview with NBC Sports Chicago. “That's why it was kind of difficult. But health is first. I have two young daughters and I just have to look in the future. It was tough to play with the pills every day, putting [them] into the body. I had to stop this, I had to make a big decision and the decision was I cannot play under these conditions.”
More than two years later, the 40-year-old Hossa still looks like somebody who can play hockey at a high level. But it’s not worth risking again with his body in a much healthier place.
“I feel way better,” Hossa said. “I didn’t put equipment on for two years, I didn’t skate for basically two years. Feeling good, skin is healed and enjoying time with the family.”
There are some things Hossa doesn’t miss about playing hockey. The plane rides, the meetings, the way his body would react after games.
But there are some things he certainly does miss.
Hossa made the drive from Slovakia to Prague on Thursday to catch up with his former Blackhawks teammates, staff and front office members, most of whom he won multiple Stanley Cups with and hasn’t seen in years. He also will be in attendance for Friday's season opener against the Philadelphia Flyers at O2 Arena.
"That's the one thing, being around the guys, around the dressing room," Hossa admitted. "Missing all this. This game of hockey gave me a lot, gave me lots of great people to work with. I have lots of people when I come back [that are] happy to see me. I'm happy to see them, and that's what is great about this game."
Hossa said he still keeps tabs on what the Blackhawks are doing. He wakes up every morning and checks the box score from the night before and scrolls through his phone to see who scored, who had the most ice time, etc. That’s the kind of emotional attachment he still has for the Blackhawks.
When he signed a 12-year contract in 2009, Hossa was hungry to just win one Stanley Cup after falling short the previous two seasons. He ended up with three and, and this year is the 10-year anniversary of his very first one.
"My goal was to come to the good young team to get a good chance to win a Stanley Cup," Hossa said. "Nobody was expecting it to be right away the first year and thank God that happened. Two years later and two years later, we won another one and another one. We are blessed, we are lucky. We had a great group, great leadership and great coaching staff, so definitely a perfect scenario."
Hossa has not officially filed his retirement papers. His contract was traded to the Arizona Coyotes last summer and it runs through the 2020-21 campaign. After it expires, Hossa will have options on what he may want to do next.
Blackhawks President & CEO John McDonough recently said on our Blackhawks Talk Podcast that the organization would love to have Hossa back in Chicago in some capacity. In fact, the offer may already be unofficially on the table. And the feeling is mutual.
"I would love to, so we’ll see what happen after my contract is done," Hossa said. "But definitely there’s lots of love for me for Chicago and great people I got a chance to work with. So definitely that would be something I would look forward to and we're gonna have a good talk and we’ll see what’s gonna happen."