Marian Hossa, recently signed by the Chicago Blackhawks hockey club, smiles during a news conference, Thursday, July 16, 2009 in Chicago. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/M. Spencer Green)
CHICAGO - The first welcome for two of the newest Blackhawks, Marian Hossa and Tomas Kopecky, came on the way to the United Centre from the airport. They got stuck in traffic.
That's how it gets sometimes in their new city. Actually, its been hectic around their new team all week. The man who lured Hossa and Kopecky to town, Dale Tallon, was ousted as general manager three days ago and replaced by Stan Bowman.
"It's hard for me to say because I wasn't there," Hossa said Thursday when asked about the change and the uproar it has caused.
"But from what I understand, Dale is still going to be around, still going to be in the organization, which is great."
Tallon is staying with the team as an adviser after getting a two-year contract extension past next season.
Hossa, introduced along with Kopecky at a news conference Thursday, could be around much longer.
The 30-year-old signed a 12-year, US$62.8-million contract as a free agent, joining his fourth team in three seasons. He led the Detroit Red Wings with 40 goals last season and helped them beat the Blackhawks in the Western Conference finals.
By signing Hossa, the Blackhawks couldn't bring back Martin Havlat, their leading scorer last year. Havlat is a friend of Hossa's.
"I talked to Marty and he understood. He moves on and I move on and we're still friends," Hossa said.
"It's tough with today's economy and salary cap taking a toll on everybody, which is too bad, because I would have liked to play with Marty."
Havlat, who signed with Minnesota, gave Hossa a positive report on the young Blackhawks. But, in an interview with TSN.ca, he had nothing good to say about team president John McDonough, who removed Tallon as GM.
"My negotiation with Chicago was not between Dale and my agent, it was between Dale and McDonough," Havlat said.
"Why? Because McDonough couldn't stand that Dale was so successful and getting the credit for building the Hawks from a last place team to making the conference final in three short years. Remember, we were also the youngest team in the NHL last year."
Havlat continued his criticism.
"I was too closely identified with Dale," Havlat added. "McDonough knew long ago he was going to fire Dale. He wanted someone he could claim as his own. He wanted to stand up at the (summer) convention (this weekend) and claim credit for signing this guy or that guy."
McDonough told the Chicago Tribune that Havlat was entitled to his opinion.
"I don't weigh in on player acquisitions or trades. I hire people to make those decisions just based on a lot of good information," McDonough said.
Hossa doesn't know if he'll be able to fulfill the contract. But he quickly noted that he spent last season in Detroit where Chris Chelios, at age 47, was still a part-time player for the Red Wings.
"I would love it. It's a hard game. You can get unlucky with injuries and things can change rapidly," Hossa said. "I hope I can play as long as I can."
Hossa played two seasons ago with a young Pittsburgh Penguins team that lost to the Red Wings in the finals. Then last month, Pittsburgh beat Detroit and Hossa was on the losing end of the Stanley Cup final again after his only season with the Red Wings.
"It's a hard feeling, but the good thing is that you are hungry for it and you feel you still want to reach that goal," Hossa said. "Hopefully, one year we can win it."
And that's what the Blackhawks are counting on - that Hossa will help them go to the next step with his scoring, versatility and physical play.
"I think this is the right fit for me," Hossa said.
Both Hossa and Kopecky, who spent the past three seasons with the Red Wings, said they were impressed by the electricity of the United Centre during the playoffs this spring and with the potential and tough play of the young Blackhawks.
Asked if he might get a third straight chance at a Stanley Cup, Hossa was cautious.
"It would be great to go the finals, but it is a long road," the five-time all-star said. "I'm definitely looking forward to it with this young team because with the talent, we got a good chance."