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Blackhawks’ Marian Hossa caught in a whirlwind of emotions

Hawks star Marian Hosssays he’s glad be back with his teammates after full offseason. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

Hawks star Marian Hossa says he’s glad to be back with his teammates after a full offseason. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: November 10, 2011 3:53PM

Blackhawks winger Marian Hossa was enjoying an overdue offseason full of rest, relaxation and additional training. He definitely needed it after playing in three consecutive Stanley Cup finals.

There were good things on the horizon, too. He and his wife, Jana, eagerly awaited the birth of their first child, and he felt healthy and in amazing shape as Hawks training camp approached.

Then a tragedy that will continue to affect the hockey world for some time hit close to home.

On Sept. 7, Hossa’s good friend and former NHL player Pavol Demitra died in a plane crash that claimed the lives of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team of Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League.

‘‘He was an excellent guy,’’
Hossa said. ‘‘He was a great father. He has two little kids. It’s such a tragedy that happened to a great guy like him. And not just him, but the whole team of Lokomotiv.’’

Two days after the crash,
Hossa’s wife gave birth to a daughter, Mia. Being able to come home and see and hold his daughter eased some of the heartache Hossa was experiencing.

‘‘It was a tough week,’’ Hossa said. ‘‘First, the tragic accident that happened. It was terrible. There were a couple of people on that plane I knew really well and one really close one. It was tough to deal with that.

‘‘After the next couple of days, my daughter was born. From death to [birth], it was really
upside down. It was a really tough time. At the end of it, it was the best day of my life.’’

Hossa arrived from Slovakia late Tuesday and joined the Hawks on the ice Wednesday. His teammates were more than happy to see him, and Hossa definitely seemed happy to be with them, cracking a smile when winger Patrick Kane joked with him in the locker room.

Coach Joel Quenneville said Hossa looked game-ready during some drills.

‘‘Boy, do you ever notice him out on the ice when the practice picks up [and] the pace,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘He looked like he was in midseason form out there and didn’t miss a beat. We’re certainly happy to have him back.

‘‘We appreciate what he’s gone through and where’s he’s at. I think playing some hockey will help him. It’s a trying time for him, and I commend him for how he’s handled it.’’

Still, it’s difficult for his teammates to wrap their minds around what one of their leaders is going through right now — from the loss of a close friend to the birth of a child — as the Hawks prepare for the season.

‘‘It’s hard for anyone to come to training camp and think about that instead of your daughter or your newborn son,’’ captain Jonathan Toews said.

‘‘We’re all a band of brothers in this league, and we stick together,’’ center Dave Bolland said. ‘‘It’s sad to see [the plane crash] happen. You never want to see that happen.’’

Hossa remained in Slovakia to attend services and a memorial for Demitra, so he missed the start of camp. He also needed time to be with his wife and daughter, who he said might arrive in Chicago in six weeks.

Hossa said he plans to honor Demitra this season, whether it’s by writing his number in his gloves or something more noticeable. He also was close with Lokomotiv coach Brad McCrimmon from their time with the Detroit Red Wings.

Right now, though, focusing on hockey seems to help.

‘‘It’s just a sad time,’’ Hossa said. ‘‘On the other side, I love to be here and think about something positive. It’s good to be here.’’

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