We all know Marian Hossa, who made a splash in his Chicago debut the other night, is blessed with immense talent. But is the 30-year-old Slovak also cursed?
Despite an arsenal of skill many of his colleagues would kill for, Hossa has never won a big-time championship or an international hockey medal.
Well, that’s not entirely true. He was a key cog on the 1998 Memorial Cup-winning Portland Winter Hawks, but that triumph comes with an asterisk, or at least a footnote. Hossa sustained a knee injury in the final game, late in the third period, with the score tied 3-3. His teammates went on to win the game in overtime, sans Hossa. He joined in the post-game celebrations when he was pushed around the ice on a chair.
Since then, he has been shut out. No Cups, no rings, no trophies, no medals.
He has answered the call every time Slovakia has called, but has never scaled the podium. When Slovakia experienced its greatest achievements on the world stage – silver, gold and bronze medals at World Championships in 2000, 2002 and 2003 respectively – Hossa was engaged in the NHL playoffs for the chronically underachieving Ottawa Senators.
And, of course, we all know what happened the past couple years in the NHL with Pittsburgh and Detroit.
So, if you’re a Hawks fan, should this worry you? Is every team on which Hossa plays doomed?
It’s not rational, but who knows how the hockey gods work? For the superstitious Chicago supporter, here’s something to cling to: the last time Hossa did win anything of consequence, at the Memorial Cup, he was wearing the Hawks’ logo. Until he got hurt.
Here are Hossa’s season-by-season snapshots:
1996-97: Debuts in World Junior Championship, collects five goals and seven points; Slovaks finish sixth. As an 18-year-old, also plays at the World Championship and earns two assists as Slovakia places ninth.
1997-98: Records four goals and eight points in WJC for ninth-placed Slovaks. Experiences triumph, albeit injured, as Portland snares Memorial Cup.
1998-99: Full-time start with Sens delayed until December due to knee injury. Plays well enough to earn All-Rookie Team berth and finishes runner-up in Calder Trophy voting to Chris Drury. Joins Team Slovakia at the worlds, where he scores five times in six games, but team places seventh.
1999-2000: Ottawa qualifies for the playoffs, but is eliminated in Round 1. Hossa doesn’t play internationally for the first time in four years and misses Slovakia’s silver medal performance at the worlds.
2000-01: Another first round defeat for the Sens, but Hossa joins Slovaks at worlds, where they finish seventh.
2001-02: Makes his Olympic debut, but team crashes to 13th-place showing. Ottawa goes to the second round of the playoffs, but succumbs to Toronto. It prevents Hossa from competing at the worlds, at which the Slovaks have their greatest triumph ever, capturing gold.
2002-03: No international participation as Ottawa advances to the Eastern Conference final. Slovakia collects another medal at the worlds, this time bronze.
2003-04: A first round playoff setback is followed by a fourth-place showing at the worlds. After the summer, Hossa and the Slovaks make it as far as the quarterfinal at the World Cup of Hockey.
2004-05: Plays first in his native Slovakia for Dukla Trencin, then in Sweden for Mora IK during the NHL lockout, but alas, still no championship. At the worlds, he’s part of a fifth-place Slovak finish.
2005-06: Traded to Atlanta, he gets two more swipes internationally: the Slovak Olympic team places fifth and the worlds team is eighth.
2006-07: Thrashers make the playoffs for the first time, but get swept by the Rangers. Another mediocre placement at the worlds: sixth.
2007-08: Is traded to Pittsburgh midway through the season and comes within a game of getting a Stanley Cup ring.
Jason Kay is the editor in chief of The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Fridays.
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