Pro hockey

Pain is Hossa’s constant friend at 34

2013-11-03T17:00:00Z 2013-11-04T09:26:22Z Pain is Hossa’s constant friend at 34George Castle Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
November 03, 2013 5:00 pm  • 

CHICAGO | There’s still plenty of life in Marian Hossa’s old carcass.

The burly 34-year-old Blackhawks’ winger, possessor of the team’s biggest paycheck, has been cut on, severely concussed and generally knocked around in his four seasons here. Pain is his constant friend.

Yet here is Hossa, shuttling between the first and second lines, with a team second-best 11 points (five goals, six assists) in his first 14 games. He’s knocked down, but eventually gets back up to provide the Hawks with one of the best two-way performers.

“When I step on the ice, I don’t try to think about it,” Hossa said of age along with the typical aches and pains. “I’m doing it naturally.

“When you get older, it’s not as physically possible to be as strong or as speedy as in your best years. I feel like I still got a lot in my legs. I just try to use my instinct and play with that.”

One of hockey’s top Slovak players puts up with a lot to stay on the ice.

The lockout-abbreviated 2012-13 season gave Hossa extra time to recover from the head blow from the Coyotes’ Raffi Torres in the 2012 playoffs that laid Hossa low with post-concussion symptoms.

Now, Hossa just now physically recovered from a disc problem that numbed his right foot in the Stanley Cup Finals against the Bruins. He stayed on the ice, but moved about gingerly on one leg.

“Basically the whole (right) leg wasn’t functioning,” Hossa said. “You just try to be in the right area. You wouldn’t go for a race because you wouldn’t be there first. Just play smart positionally, play defense and don’t even think about offense much. Not much you can do.

“Half the summer I was just rehabbing. That was my No. 1 thing. After that I was kind of healed, I started working out. The summer was so short. You couldn’t do everything. You miss some things. Now when I play more games, I feel more and more comfortable.”

In the summer of 2009, the Hawks signed Hossa to a 12-year, $62.8 million contract. As the Cubs did with Alfonso Soriano, they paid him off peak production. Hossa had scored 40 goals with the Red Wings in 2008-09, two years after he tallied 43 for Atlanta.

But he hasn’t come close to those numbers since, as injuries have cut his playing time and production. Hossa had 24 and 25 goals, respectively, his first two Hawks seasons. In his only full Chicago season, in which he missed just one game in 2011-12, he had 29 goals and 48 assists.

He may not be a league-leading “slugger” anymore, but always will be in the forefront with his play on both sides of the puck.

“I still like to put up some numbers offensively,” Hossa said. “But I play the best game as a two-way game. Just back checking hard, helping our ‘D’ and it makes me happy when I can steal the puck from somebody.”

He’ll still have a Hawks contract at age 40. Does Hossa still see himself drawing those paychecks in six years?

“If everything goes right,” he said. “The last few years, I’ve played so much hockey (four Stanley Cup Finals). If I feel healthy and I feel good, why not?”

“I always said as long as I’m healthy and still help the team, that’s still my goal. If I feel some of those things aren’t working, then I’ll think about (retirement). But right now I’m not.”

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