Hossa praised as ‘great human’ before number to be retired by Blackhawks

“I’m sure everything’s going to come down to that moment, but I’ll surprise myself,” Hossa said Wednesday.

He’ll find out when his No. 81 is raised to the rafters by the Blackhawks before they play the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday (7 pm ET; SN, NBCSCH, ATTSN-PT, ESPN+).

The forward will be the eighth player to have his number retired by the Blackhawks, joining goalies Glenn Hall (No. 1) and Tony Esposito (No. 35), defensemen Pierre Pilote and Keith Magnuson (each No. 3), and forwards Bobby Hull (No. 9), Denis Savard (No. 18) and Stan Mikita (No. 21).

Hossa had 1,134 points (525 goals, 609 assists) in 1,309 games with the Ottawa Senators, Atlanta Thrashers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Detroit Red Wings and Blackhawks, including 415 points (186 goals, 229 assists) in 534 regular-season games for Chicago. He scored at least 30 goals in a season eight times and at least 40 three times. He had 149 points (52 goals, 97 assists) in 205 Stanley Cup Playoff games.

“He was a great player,” Penguins forward Sidney Crosby said of Hossa, his teammate with Pittsburgh in 2007-08. “I just remember, first couple games that I played with him, he was just flying by me on the backcheck. He gets a lot of credit for how good he was offensively, but he was really good defensively too. I think, you look at his career, he was so consistent, it was great to have the opportunity to play with him.”

Inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame last November, Hossa won the Stanley Cup three times with the Blackhawks (2010, 2013 and 2015). A progressive skin disorder ended his career after the 2016-17 season.

“I put him in the same class as [former NHL defenseman] Zdeno Chara, other brilliant players, that you get to meet them and everybody says this, but it’s just true: they’re way better humans,” Florida Panthers coach Paul Maurice said. “Just so good with the equipment guys, so good with the medical guys. When we look at professional athletes and we idolize them, and I mean that in a good way, and you get kids and you want them to look up to somebody, Marian Hossa would be the guy you’d want kids to emulate.”

Hossa played the final eight seasons of his 19-year NHL career with the Blackhawks after signing a 12-year contract with them on July 1, 2009.

“You can put that into perspective by how much success or not success the team has had since he retired. He was such a big piece of the team,” Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane said. “Everyone talks about his two-way play and how good that was, but he did score 500-something goals, too, so he’s pretty good offensively. A great human as well. He was huge for us.”

Video: Marian Hossa joins to discuss his new book

Hossa joined the Blackhawks after they advanced to the 2009 Western Conference Final, where they lost to the Red Wings in five games.

Captain Jonathan Toews said Hossa may not have been the center of attention at that time with up-and-coming players like Toews, Kane and defensemen Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook on the roster. But Hossa made his mark soon enough.

“He almost surprised fans with what he was capable of doing, taking over shifts sometimes, putting three guys on his back and even if the shift didn’t end in a goal, he had 20,000 people on their feet,” Toews said. “He was a special guy, a special player and undercover legend and superstar in the city.”

Having Hossa on your team was great. Facing him, well, that wasn’t nearly as fun.

“I got to experience a few of those moments,” Los Angeles Kings forward Anze Kopitar said. The Kings played the Blackhawks in the 2013 and 2014 Western Conference Final, losing to them in five games in 2013 and defeating them in seven games in 2014.

“He was so big and strong on the puck. When you’re big and strong and have a skill like he did, it’s hard to knock the puck away. He’s done great things, Stanley Cup champion and well deserved for the jersey to go up there.”

Hossa battled through his share of injuries and illness in his career. Maurice was assistant coach for Team Europe at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey and saw how Hossa excelled despite his skin condition.

“He was really dealing with it at the World Cup,” he said. “I think we were playing Team Canada, and he took off on a backcheck from this corner to the far end, from one end of the ice to another. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a man skate that fast in my life. It was awesome.”

Hossa remains busy. He has his business Hoss Sport Center in his hometown of Trencin, Slovakia, and he also wrote his autobiography, “Marian Hossa: My Journey from Trencin to the Hall of Fame” with Scott Powers of The Athletic. Still, he said he’d like to be “a small part of the Blackhawks organization” and will talk to team brass about how best to stay connected.

The Blackhawks’ best years came when Hossa was here. It’s part of his legacy, which is a great one.

“I had my drive I had my goal. I was focusing to achieve that goal and even after losses, I still tried to focus on my goal and I know the determination and I think the discipline got me there,” Hossa said of his career . “Obviously I played with so many great players around. I have to thank them, the coaching staff, management. Without them, I wouldn’t be here.”

NHL.com independent correspondent Wes Crosby contributed to this report.

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