Friday, May 29, 2009

The Face Of A Mercenary?

I don't know why I dislike Marian Hossa so much. He's never forced a trade like Alexei Yashin, never scorched the earth with a former team on purpose like Eric Lindros, hasn't made a career out of cheap shots like Claude Lemeuix. Hossa even visited an opponent in the hospital after accidentally high sticking him and nearly blinding him in one eye.

He played with the Ottawa Senators through two contracts. After the NHL lockout which forced him to play in Europe, Hossa returned to the Senators and signed a new contract. Right after he signed it, the Senators traded him to Atlanta. So Hossa remained loyal to the team that drafted him only to have that team ship him off as soon as he resigned.

Hossa suffered through losing seasons in Atlanta before being traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins last year. He fit right in and helped the Penguins reach the Stanley Cup Finals.

And tha
t's when things get dicey.

Hossa was a great fit with the Penguins and the team was a huge success with him. Yet, Hossa turned down a multi-year contract offer from the Pens in order to sign a one year deal with the champion Red Wings. His obvious reasoning was that he wanted to win a championship.

What Hossa did was perfectly in his rights. He didn't manipulate anyone or stop down a team because of his demands.

But what make
s him so damn special? Every player in the league wants to win a Stanley Cup, but they don't all just high tail it to last year's champ in order to get it.

I'd understand Hossa's decision a lot more if he played in Atlanta still. Then you'd have a guy stuck on a losing team that he was traded to and he just wants a chance to play for a contender one more time.

But Hossa was traded to a contender already. He made the freaking Stanley Cup finals last year! Now instead of staying with that team and helping the get to the peak of the N
HL mountain, he jumps ship. He goes from hero acquisition to some sort of sybarite who just can't be bothered with the uncertainty that his team won't clearly win the title.

Maybe Hossa knows that the Red Wings really are in a different league than even the Penguins. Maybe this Stanley Cup final will be as boring as last years and Detroit will easily take the cup again. But his gamble hasn't put Hossa in a good position; if he wins the cup, big deal, the Wings did it without him. If he doesn't win, that means Pittsburgh will and you can bet fans will enjoy reminding Hossa of that little fact. Maybe he'll become the A-Rod of hockey: a great player who just can't play on a
championship team.

The Penguins were embarrassed last year and they've been looking for another shot at the hated Red Wings. Hossa may have provided the Penguins with an emotional catalyst to make this more of a series. The Pittsburgh fans will definitely be into the game.

On the surface, turning down money to play for a championship seems like a noble effort in sports. In Hossa's case, it makes him look like a front-runner to me. Which actually makes perfect sense to me since the Red Wings have more front runner fans than any team in hockey. I can't logically explain it, but to me a Penguins victory is a victory for sports fans everywhere. It proves you can't just choose when you want to win a championship.

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