Daniel Alfredsson got his first glimpse of Marian Hossa during the 1997-98 season.
Hossa was coming off a torn anterior cruciate ligament injury and only played seven games with the Ottawa Senators that season, his first in the NHL, but Alfredsson saw plenty of potential.
“You could tell right away that he was going to be a player,” said Alfredsson. “I was impressed with his work ethic and obviously his speed and raw talents. Once he made the team full the following year, he became an important player right away. The player and the person you always wish the best for because he always brings everything.”
Nearly 20 seasons later, Hossa is one of the best and most respected players in the league. He’s also on the cusp of 500 career NHL goals, sitting at 498 heading into Tuesday’s game against the Minnesota Wild. For those who opposed or played alongside Hossa, the talent on offense and defense was undeniable from the start.
“It’s very impressive, 500 goals. To some people it may not sound like a lot, but when you break it down and do the math, that’s 10 50-goal seasons or 20 25-goal seasons, those are incredible numbers,” said Patrick Sharp, who was part of three Stanley Cup teams with Hossa. “But when I think of Hoss, I don’t think of the goal scoring. I think of him as a great teammate, a great friend and a guy a coach can put on the ice in any situation and any time of the game. And that’s why he’s so valuable to a team.”
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Marty Turco was Hossa’s teammate for one season; the goaltender faced Hossa over several other seasons. Turco believes he fared pretty well vs. Hossa during his career — “that’s why I’m smiling right now,” he said. But from a goaltender’s perspective, trying to figure out what Hossa was going to do was always a challenge.
“You always paid attention to a few guys. When Hossa’s playing, wherever he was, you knew where he was on the ice. He’s that adept at getting lost,” Turco said. “For me, I had to get out high enough because of his closing speed. Forehand, backhand, deke, he had no tendencies; he had everything in the bag.”
Alfredsson described Hossa’s shot as “deceptive.”
“He shoots in stride better than almost everybody,” Alfredsson said. “He doesn’t have a really hard shot. If you watch in practice, something goalies aren’t afraid of in terms of power. It’s the deceptiveness. It makes his hard for goalies to read when he shoots in stride. He obviously reads the goalies well.”
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Hossa has closed in on 500 goals while maintaining a strong defensive game. While Hossa said he learned plenty in that department from Pavel Datsyuk when the two played together in Detroit in 2007-08, Hossa’s always had a strong two-way game. In that respect, he’s become a goaltender and defenseman’s best friend.
“Obviously other teams see him as an offensive player and the force he is on the ice. But you never see the little plays, just coming back to support, especially when he’s on a line with (Jonathan) Toews for a long time,” former teammate Johnny Oduya said. “Playing off him, helping him out, too, makes Toews a better defensive player. Whoever is on that (other) side is going to have an easier job because of Hoss taking so much responsibility on his side. As a D man, it’s great to have that.”
Hossa has achieved some great things in his career. He’s played in more than 1,000 regular-season games. He’s won three Stanley Cups. He should probably have won Selke Trophy or two, too, but that’s another discussion for another story. Now he’s on the cusp of scoring 500 goals. Hossa has become one of the great players in the league. Those who saw him in those early years aren’t surprised.
“I consider myself lucky to have played with him,” Alfredsson said. “I tried to help him when he came in the league, but we helped each other during our time together. I have a lot of respect for him, and we work very well together. He’ll be a friend for life.”