Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Marian Hossa still keeping up at 35
By Scott Powers
Like most young people, Marian Hossa once considered anyone in their 30s as old.
Hossa would have seen players such as Grant Ledyard and Kevin Dineen as old-timers back when they were Ottawa Senators teammates in 2000. Hossa turned 21 in January 2000 and was just a few seasons into the league, while Ledyard and Dineen were beyond 35 and nearing the end of their careers.
Marian Hossa tries to be smart with his practice time to stay fresh for the season.
Now that Hossa is 35 himself, his perspective has changed.
"To tell you the truth, when I was 21 or 22 and somebody was in the same dressing room and he was 35, I thought he was really old," Hossa said recently. "Now that old guy is me. As long as I can keep up with the young guys, it's fun."
Hossa, who will begin playing in his fourth Olympics for Slovakia on Wednesday, may be old in age, at least relative to other players in the league, but his play isn't showing signs of deterioration. Growing older has made Hossa a smarter player and more careful with his body -- he'll skip on-ice workouts whenever he feels necessary -- but his numbers for the Chicago Blackhawks this season indicate he's still at an elite level.
Hossa is tied for 13th in the NHL with 24 goals and is on the verge of scoring 30 goals for the eighth time in his career and first time since the 2008-09 season. He's also 22nd with 50 points and will have a shot at reaching 70 points for the eighth time in his career.
Hossa also still plays 20-plus minutes a game, including on the power play and penalty kill, and remains one of the NHL's top defensive players, leading the league with 63 takeaways and is tied for third with a plus-26 rating.
None of that equates to being old in the eyes of 22-year-old Hawks teammate Andrew Shaw.
"You couldn't tell he was 35," Shaw said recently. "He's an amazing hockey player. He still is. He acts like a kid around the room. It shows there's a little kid in everybody. He's a great player, and he's got years left of hockey."
Hossa has been attempting to add on years to his career and fulfill his contract, which runs to 2021, by monitoring his body closely. The last few seasons haven't been kind to him from a health standpoint as he suffered a severe concussion during the playoffs in 2012 and injured his back in the playoffs last season.
Hossa sat out the preseason after aggravating his back injury and missed three games because of an undisclosed lower-body injury in November, but he's otherwise been healthy. In recent weeks, he's opted to skip the team's on-ice workouts at practice and morning skates and work with the team's trainer in the locker room.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has described the days where Hossa isn't on the ice as maintenance work, and Hossa wouldn't say whether something was bothering him. Quenneville has been OK with the routine as long as Hossa continues to produce in games. Hossa has done that by recording points in five of the team's past six games heading into the Olympic break.
"I think he likes that strategy -- just come play games," Quenneville said last week. "I think most players wouldn't mind that, as well. But you know he's got a lot of experience, knows his body. He knows when it's game time he's ready."
Hossa said he could feel the benefits of not skating as much.
"Every day is a little different, but so far when I wasn't practicing I feel like I had the jump," Hossa said. "I don't think Q is going to mind [me] not practicing."
Playing consistently well does get some leeway with Quenneville. He's been pleased with Hossa all season.
"He's been good this year," Quenneville said. "That consistency is a good measuring stick for a guy like him because he represents how you want the perfect players to play as far both sides of the puck, puck possession, puck protection, play recognition, finish."
If only the 21-year-old Hossa could see 35-year-old Hossa now.