SAN JOSE, Calif. – As wonderful as it feels to score a goal and as amazing as it is to celebrate with your teammates, nothing beats coming home for Blackhawks winger Marian Hossa.
Win or lose, few things compare to being with his newborn daughter, Mia.
‘‘For me, it’s an awesome experience,” Hossa told the Sun-Times on Wednesday. ‘‘I’m loving it. It’s such a joy when you come home. [Whether] you have a great game or you have a tough game, you come home and look at the little baby, you forget everything. That’s what matters.”
By no means has that mentality made Hossa less of a player. In fact, he probably has been the Hawks’ best player during the first quarter of the season.
‘‘He’s been excellent this year,” coach Joel Quenneville said. ‘‘Offensively, he’s a threat. He has the puck a lot. Defensively, he seems to kill a lot of plays. He’s positionally strong. He’s strong in the puck area. He complements our special teams, as well. That line – whether it’s with [Patrick Kane] or [Jonathan Toews] – on a lot of nights, that’s tough to contend with. A lot of times, he’s a direct force.”
Off the ice, it’s Mia who drives Hossa. On Sept. 7, Hossa lost close friend Pavol Demitra in the plane crash involving the Russian pro team Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. Two days later, Hossa and his wife, Jana, celebrated Mia’s birth.
It has been tough for Hossa to be on the road, especially with the annual circus trip this month. But video chats with Jana have helped him stay connected to Mia.
‘‘I haven’t spent much time with her because we’ve been on the road for a quite a bit,” Hossa said. ‘‘But when we have a day off, I lay with her on her side on the couch or on the bed. That’s my favorite thing.
‘‘She’s starting to pick up on things. She is looking around and seeing what’s going on. Things are just going to be more fun when she gets a little older.”
When he’s healthy, there is little that can slow Hossa. He is off to another scorching start with nine goals and 23 points in his first 20 games. That is even better than his start last season, when he had eight goals and 18 points in his first 20 games. It doesn’t matter which line he’s on; he just produces.
‘‘He does all the little things right,” linemate Viktor Stalberg said. ‘‘It’s something I’ve learned from playing with him. He’s making me a better player, that’s for sure.
‘‘He is a great guy. He’s not the loudest guy in the locker room, but for being as recognized as he is and experienced as he is, he’s a real humble guy. He’s nice to everyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re a first-year player or a fifth- or 10th-year player. He’s one of the first guys you can talk to. He’s genuinely a nice guy.”
Hossa said he doesn’t feel like a different player now that he’s a father, but there has been a change in his perspective.
‘‘I think hockey was always No. 1,” Hossa said ‘‘[But] the priorities change. Now [that] the baby is there, you think about life a little bit different.”
Sports editor’s note: The Blackhawks-San Jose Sharks game ended too late for this edition. For late results, go to www.suntimes.com/sports.