Shockingly, Marian Hossa was the wrong guy to ask about club remixes of classic hip-hop songs. The bewildered look on his face when asked who chose the Blackhawks’ now-standard post-victory locker-room song — Matoma’s remix of Notorious B.I.G.’s “Old Thing Back” — was a not-so-subtle reminder that, on a team and in a league of 20-somethings, the 36-year-old Hossa is of a different vintage.
“I’m sorry?” he said, ever polite.
Turns out Hossa hadn’t even realized the same song had been playing after every win for the past couple of months. When you reach a certain age, new music all sounds the same, anyway, right?
“I think you just forget about how much hockey he’s played, and how old he is,” Jonathan Toews said, before catching himself. “That sounded awful. I didn’t mean to put it that way.”
Toews was laughing, but really, there’s no other way to put it. At 36, Hossa is old by athlete standards. And with 1,172 regular-season games and 174 playoff games behind him, he’s old by hockey standards. In the past seven seasons, he’s been to the Stanley Cup Final four times and the conference final one other time. He may be built like a “Greek god,” in Kris Versteeg’s words, but he ought to resemble a Greek ruin by now.
But watch him leave a slick little drop pass for Toews, then dive toward the net in a flash to clear some room for him and create a goal in Game 3. Watch him go into the corner against two guys nearly half his age and come out with the puck. Watch him track down younger forwards on the backcheck. Watch him lift sticks and pick pockets and hold off opponents one-handed, with a mere flick of his forearm. Watch him celebrate a goal, arms raised above his head, jaw dropped for a primal scream, like it’s the first time, every time.
He looks ageless, like he could do this forever.
“[Jaromir] Jagr said he wants to play till he’s 50-something,” Joel Quenneville said. “Don’t know about Hoss.”
Hossa won’t lie. He feels his age from time to time. And at this stage of his career, he’s basically just waiting around for the playoffs. He’s hardly coasting through the regular season — he played all 82 games, posting 22 goals and 39 assists, all while still playing Selke Trophy-caliber defense. But while the occasional St. Louis game still feels like a big deal in December, it’s springtime when Hossa really puts a spring in his step.
“I still get excited for the games,” he said. “Still get butterflies before the games, so that’s a good sign.”
Hossa had two assists in Game 1 and two more in Game 3 — both Hawks victories — and it’s no coincidence that the team’s best game was Sunday, when the top line of Hossa, Toews and Brandon Saad was flying, creating chances at one end and suppressing them at the other. It’s a hard game Hossa plays, a 200-foot game that most guys his age are unable to play — let alone at an elite level.
But this is what Hossa lives for, what all the extra stretching and extra training-room time and extra mornings off during the long and arduous regular season are for. This is the time when “old” can become “experienced,” when Greek gods can become legends.
So allow Toews to walk back that “old” comment a bit further.
“My point is you kind of forget that he’s been around, played a lot of playoff hockey,” he said. “He still seems to have that passion, that burning desire to be the best, and he just goes out there and does it. He makes it seem a lot easier than it really is. To think of where you’ll be at if you have the chance to play as long as he has, how that might feel, I kind of cringe thinking about it. It is pretty impressive.”