The Chicago Blackhawks return his No. 81 pick

A busy schedule is set and special guests have been invited. The only thing Chicago Blackhawks great Marian Hossa don’t know how he’ll react on Sunday when his No. 81 is retired and lifted onto the rafters of the United Center.

“I’m not sure, but I feel great right now,” said Hossa. “I’m sure it’s all going to come down to this moment, but I’m going to surprise myself.”

It begins with the doors opening at 2:30 p.m. in the United Center Atrium and a pre-game celebration. Hossa will reminisce with former teammates Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Patrick Sharp and Niklas Hjalmarsson during a panel discussion at 15:50

Hossa, who recently published the book Marián Hossa: My Journey from Trencín to the Hall of Fame, will be honored in a 4:30 p.m. on-ice ceremony before the puck drops against the Pittsburgh Penguins at 6:00 p.m

“It will be fun to celebrate his amazing career here in Chicago and see him and some of our old teammates,” said Patrick Kane.

Captain Jonathan Toews added: “It definitely brings you back and you realize that time has passed since he was a Blackhawk. But we can all imagine the reception he’ll get from the fans, how much he meant to the fan base here in Chicago.”

Marián Hossa wins the Stanley Cup as Captain Jonathan Toews looks on after the Blackhawks defeated the Flyers 4-3 in overtime in Game 6 of the Finals June 9, 2010 at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia.

Hossa, who was anchored in it the hockey hall of fame last year looks set to be the first to be crowned in a parade of jersey retirements, Hall of Fame inductions and other ceremonies honoring players from the Hawks-Stanley Cup dynasty (2010, ’13 and ’15) enjoy.

Keith, who retired in July, is an obvious candidate to join Hossa in the rafters and hall. Keith’s defensive partner Seabrook and goaltender Corey Crawford (who is eligible for Hall’s first year next year) have been passed around as Hall candidates.

Sharp and Hjalmarsson could certainly be eligible for jersey retirement and for Cup icons Kane and Toews it’s just a matter of how long they want to extend their careers before being admitted to the hall.

“It’s pretty special,” Kane said. “[Hossa]obviously had an amazing career here and was probably one of the best free-agent signings in Chicago sports history. The way he played the game, the teammate he was definitely deserved that honor.

“And the other day they have the Hall of Famers and they’re talking about potential inductions for next year and you see Crawford and Seabrook up there. So it’s pretty cool. It would be fun to see these guys get recognized.”

Hossa was asked how many former teammates’ shirts could rest next to his.

“That’s a difficult question,” he said. “There are so many names that deserve to be up there. It’s not up to me but I know I’ll be back for some others in the future. Only big names come up and I leave it to other people to decide.”

And there will be enough time for that later. Sunday is about Hossa and what he meant to the Hawks and the game.

“I sat next to him in the dressing room for maybe six or seven years and was a great teammate,” Kane said. “Lots of good laughs with him. He always seemed very balanced no matter what was going on.”

Teammates railed at Marián Hossa after his overtime goal gave the Blackhawks a 5-4 win over the Predators in Game 5 of their first round playoff series at the United Center on April 24, 2010.

Hossa’s two-way game rubbed off on the entire dressing room.

“He was really known to be a great defensive player,” Kane said. “The way he backchecked and the way he could remove pucks from behind, it seemed like he was doing that a couple of times a game.

“I remember seeing him, he was so strong on the puck. Nobody could take the puck from him.”

As a former defenseman, Hawks coach Luke Richardson could attest to that.

“As a left-hander when he’s offside, as a right-winger in the deep when he’s half a step behind him, he pretty much hits the net,” he said. “At least we were allowed to follow up at the time. It didn’t bother him.”

An Ottawa native, Richardson has watched the career of the former Senators’ first-round draft pick unfold over 19 seasons.

“When he was in Ottawa he was a great forward and a compliment to different players there,” Richardson said. “Then he goes to Atlanta and was great for (Ilya) Kovalchuk. He made him a better player because he’s a more responsible guy who could play with an excellent explosive offensive player.

“Same with Detroit, Pittsburgh, here. That’s why he was wanted. He wasn’t moved because he wasn’t wanted, he was the type everyone wanted. When it came time to win, that’s the guy they got.”

Now the Hawks leadership wants him back – but in a different capacity.

Blackhawks star Marián Hossa is cast on the United Center video board as he waves to the crowd from a luxury box during a break in the first half of a game against the Kraken on April 7, 2022.

“We spoke to him about what a role might look like,” Jaime Faulkner, president of business operations, told the Tribune last month. “He runs a number of companies back home, he’s very successful, extremely smart, so he has an interest in helping on both the business side and the hockey side.

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“So we’re working on what that might look like. And hopefully we can have him by our side in the near future.”

Hossa said talks with Faulkner and CEO Danny Wirtz are ongoing.

“I took a long break from hockey, had my own business in Slovakia and am quite busy with it,” he said. “But I will be associated with this team. I want to be associated with the city where we found success and the best years and definitely want to be a small part of the Blackhawks organization.

“It’s been a long time, but (I’ll) try to make sure I make the right decision about what role I’m taking on.”

Blackhawks right winger Marián Hossa skates during a game against the Bruins April 2, 2017 at the United Center.

Hossa has watched the Hawks with a critical eye this season, noting the culture they are trying to build. He was at the United Center on Monday reviewing the team and new coaching staff on the Hawks’ night Lost 3-0 to the Carolina Hurricanes.

“Maybe they don’t have as much talent as we did in our prime,” Hossa said. “But as long as they work hard, people see it and that’s important.

“When I look at the shirts hanging there, this game just hit me. It’s just an incredible feeling. My 81 will be here in a few days.”

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