LAS VEGAS – For Tom Reid, it started with a very small spot on his arm during the 1974-75 season. The former Blackhawks and Minnesota North Stars defenseman didn’t think much of it at the time but that small spot would develop into a serious skin condition that would end his career a few seasons later.
Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa announced in a statement on Wednesday morning that, due to severe reactions to medication he’s taking to combat a “progressive skin disorder,” he will miss the 2017-18 season.
It’s a situation that’s very familiar to Reid, whose 11-year NHL career was cut short to a similar problem.
“I played 35 to 36 games that final year because I spent so much time with the doctor,” Reid said. “They though it was a combination of my body type and the heat of my body during playing time. They tried to cool me down, squirt me with water whenever I got off the ice. All that did was add weight to my equipment. In the '77-78 season, the doctors said, ‘We’ve been given you steroids, cortisone, but can’t do it anymore. You’ll be dead by 40.’ So I stepped away.”
How long Hossa has had his disorder, how it started, where it started, is uncertain. Reid said he had absolutely no problems through the first eight seasons of his career until he developed that little spot on his arm – “it was the size of a quarter,” he said. But the spot grew until Reid had a rash from his waist to his neck. Reid added there were other players who had similar allergic reactions.
“Some figured it was the leather in the gloves and skates, but that wasn’t the case with me,” he said. “Mine was in my torso.”
It got to the point where Reid was in the hospital for seven or more days at a time trying to get rid of the rash. Doctors would apply Burow’s solution (a topical skin solution) to Reid every two hours. Reid had to wrap towels around his body to absorb oozing blood that could ruin his clothes. He took his equipment home and cleaned it there, hoping that would make a difference.
Even sleeping got to be incredibly difficult.
“Some nights I couldn’t lay down because on the sheets, just turning was painful. I had to sleep in a straight-back wooden chair with a sheet on me,” Reid recalled. “It was not a lot of fun.”
As of now, Hossa will miss this upcoming season. Whether or not he can return is uncertain at the time. If this is it for Hossa, however, that’s the way it may have to be. As Reid found out himself, health has to come first.
“We all know the end is going to come. Why we step away, there are different reasons. [For me,] the doctors said no more and it was an easy choice because I didn’t want to be dead by the time I was 40,” Reid said. “It’s a hard way to go out. You want to go out on top and it makes it easier when you’ve got your name on the Cup. I’m sure he’d like to continue playing but at some point, you have to say my health is more important than the game.”