PHILADELPHIA – As Marian Hossa entered the Wachovia Centre for the team’s game-day skate on Wednesday, a row of Philadelphia hecklers called out ”you’re going to lose three in a row” and ”it’s the Hossa curse.”
No one will say that again.
The 31-year-old avoided losing in a third straight final as Patrick Kane scored in overtime to give the Chicago Blackhawks a 4-3 victory over the Flyers to claim the team’s first Cup since 1961.
After losing in the final with Pittsburgh in 2008 and with Detroit last spring, Hossa is finally a Stanley Cup champion.
”This is unbelievable,” the big right-winger said as his teammates hollered and squirted champagne in a packed Chicago dressing room. ”It’s better than I thought it would be.
”After three years of being disappointed, being in the finals and losing, finally I’m on the other side enjoying a victory.”
When team captain Jonathan Toews accepted the trophy from commissioner Gary Bettman, he first raised it in the air, and then the first person he passed it to was Hossa.
”Jonathan told me in the morning skate ‘I don’t want to talk about it, but if we win, I’ll give the Cup to you first,”’ Hossa said. ”What a gentleman move.
”He knew what I went though. This is my best hockey moment.”
“I mentioned to him to be ready,” said Toews, the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as MVP of the playoffs. ”Duncan (Keith) and (Patrick) Sharp both agreed that he should be the first guy after myself to grab it.
”It’s special for him. I can’t imagine being part of three long seasons like that and to finally win one. It’s amazing for all of us.”
Hossa was held without a point in the sixth and deciding game and ended the playoffs with three goals and 15 points in 22 games, a big drop from the 26 points he put up for Pittsburgh in the 2008 playoffs.
But he was a huge factor for the Blackhawks, tough to knock off the puck, skating hard on attack and on defence and making room for his linemates on the ice.
”I know I didn’t score many goals and it kind of bugged me, but I knew if I did the other things, we have a lot of guys who can score,” he said. ”We did it as a team and a family.”
Hossa began his NHL career in 1997 with the Ottawa Senators and, after seven seasons, moved to the Atlanta Thrashers. He was dealt to Pittsburgh at the trading deadline in 2008 and went to the final, losing to Detroit.
He then jumped as a free agent to the Red Wings and went to the final again, only to lose to the Penguins.
Last summer, he signed a 12-year contract as a free agent with Chicago, guessing that their group of young talent had the best shot at a championship.
”I thought he was a monster out there tonight,” said Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville. ”When he had the puck, you couldn’t get it off him.
”I think he wanted to make sure he was winning the Cup here tonight.”