DETROIT – Really, it’s not about the money.
Some people cringe when athletes say that.
When Marian Hossa did, no one could question it.
Hossa signed a one-year deal with the Detroit Red Wings last summer, turning down a longer contract to stay in Pittsburgh and a more lucrative one to play for Edmonton. That’s because he believed the defending Stanley Cup champions gave him the best chance to win a title.
Anaheim Ducks forward Teemu Selanne vividly remembers hearing the news back home in Finland.
“We were joking, ‘The rich got richer,’ ” Selanne recalled Saturday, a day before facing Hossa and the Red Wings on their home ice in Game 5. “We knew Detroit was going to be stronger.
“It’s hard to repeat, so it’s good to have new blood from guys who are hungry to win the Cup.”
Perhaps it makes sense that Hossa helped Detroit win a game it needed against Anaheim to avoid being on the brink of elimination in the Western Conference semifinals.
After being held pointless in the first three games by the Ducks, Hossa broke a tie with two goals in a three-minute span to lift the Red Wings to a 6-3, series-evening victory in Game 4.
“It definitely feels good when you can finally put a puck in the net,” Hossa said. “We had some great chances and played some good games, but the puck didn’t go in. We tried to stay patient.”
Hossa, though, was impatient about his quest for a Cup.
The marquee free agent from Slovakia signed in Detroit at a relative discount for about US$7.5 million, declining an offer estimated to be worth $49 million to remain with the runner-up Penguins and reportedly many more millions to join the Oilers.
The 38-year-old Selanne understands why Hossa made the rare decision to leave money on the bargaining table after completing his stellar career in Anaheim with a championship two years ago.
“For a veteran who has made a lot of money, like Hossa, you know you have to sacrifice to win a Cup,” Selanne said. “Winning the Cup is priceless.
“I think anybody would take a pay cut to try to win a Cup.”
The 30-year-old Hossa improved his chances – and those of his team – by finding a way to score in a matchup featuring the past two Stanley Cup winners.
“He’s a high-end player and he has to feel like the weight of the world is off his back,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “Anyone who envisions themselves as a scorer, when it’s not going in the net, they start pressing. So it was good for him.”
Hossa had a team-high 40 goals this season and has scored at least 29 times in nine straight seasons with Detroit, Pittsburgh, Atlanta and Ottawa.
Ducks defenceman Scott Niedermayer said it was inevitable Hossa was going to find the back of the net in the series.
“He’s a talented, gifted guy,” Niedermayer said. “But when we look back at those goals, we feel we could’ve done more in those situations.”
Heading into Game 5 on Sunday in Detroit, Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle would not say who would be in goal trying to stop Hossa.
Carlyle replaced Jonas Hiller, who gave up five goals after making 100-plus saves in two wins, with Jean-Sebastien Giguere on Thursday night.
“We decided to rest Jonas Hiller in that situation,” Carlyle said. “Giguere has been working diligently, and we felt it would be best to give him an opportunity to sharpen and hone in playoff-type action.
“With it being a three-goal lead, it made sense to do that and give him an opportunity to get his feet underneath him. If we decide to go in that direction, he’s not coming in cold.”
So, who’s going to start Sunday?
“You guys better come to the warmup,” Carlyle said.
Babcock isn’t buying it.
“Oh, he’ll be back,” said Babcock, referring to Hiller. “Giggy’s really good. Hiller has been fantastic.”