First time here? Midway Minute is a Chicago sports newsletter I write every weekday morning that keeps you on top of everything with original writing, analysis and links to the best news around town. Join me today! (It’s free!)
Good morning, frents …
Let’s start the day with a Hall of Fame quote from a Hall of Fame player, shall we?
"It's 1 a.m. in Slovakia and I've already had one bottle of wine and I don't know how long this press conference will go, so good luck to me."
Marian. Freakin’. Hossa.
Seriously. Love that guy.
How is Marian Hossa still underappreciated?
Thank god they didn’t screw it up.
That was my initial thought when Marian Hossa was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame on his first try Wednesday afternoon. I was relieved Hawks Twitter didn’t have to take to the ramparts to complain about the mistake that had just been made.
Of course, it shouldn’t have been that way. My first reaction should have been elation at Hossa getting the deserved honor of being a first-ballot selection. There shouldn’t have been a doubt in my mind.
But it wasn’t that way. Ever since Sean McIndoe (aka Down Goes Brown) wrote this piece on Grantland in 2015, Hossa’s Hall candidacy somehow became Internet debate chum, the equivalent of the NFL’s endless “Is Eli a Hall of Famer?” articles that started the minute he won Super Bowl. It was outrage in a box, the type of argument designed to spur instant outrage from fans wearing red sweaters.
For those of us in Chicago, it was puzzling the topic was even being brought up. Wasn’t it an open and shut case? Had these people not seen Hossa play? Were we just being trolled for clicks and engagement?
If it was that last thing, it was a ploy that went until the last possible moment. Wednesday morning brought some more shit-stirring from McIndoe on Twitter (Sample tweet: “He was very good defensively. Never hurt you.”) and then a couple of post-election jabs from Ken Campbell of The Hockey News.
Then there was this guy, who triumphantly showed up in DGB’s mentions with this series of heat maps that are supposed to prove lord knows what point.
Look, I’ll admit Chicagoans talk about Hossa the way most talk about Chuck Norris.
But how could we not? He showed up on Black Wednesday during the 2009-10 season, the sword in the stone that unlocked three Cups for the thirstiest of fanbases. For eight seasons, we watched him do whatever he wanted on the ice, the tall tale on skates who set a quiet example for a young team that watched everything he did.
I may have written this before, but watching him work both sides of the ice was like watching a locomotive play hockey. He played at a slight bent, his long strides and active reach making his stick seem about 10 feet long. You remember the corner bubble hockey player? The figure who covered twice the area of everyone else?
That was Hossa.
He once scored a goal out of thin air. He won an OT playoff game moments after getting out of the box on a major. He teamed with Jonathan Toews to shut down the best lines any coach could throw at them during the playoffs. He scored 525 goals and added 609 assists. He played in as many All-Star Games as he did Stanley Cup Finals (five).
Hossa was the walking hockey lesson, a guy guaranteed to teach you something if you watched him any time he went over the boards. A goal scorer early in his career, Hossa looked at the Hawks and saw they needed a two-way forward and changed his game accordingly. You got the feeling he’d have strapped on goalie pads (and been good at that too!) if that’s what took him to get the Cup that eluded him in Pittsburgh and Detroit.
And make no mistake. That he was a humble and hardworking eastern European in a city where more than a few people fit that profile certainly didn’t hurt. Hossa’s hometown of Trencin is near the Slovakian town where my grandfather grew up, making him an instant favorite in the Kaduk family.
Ah, enough from me already. Just watch this highlight reel and tell me this is a guy whose career you’d ever second guess because hockey writers were too busy thinking only centers could garner Selke votes.
If people either didn’t watch or appreciate this brilliance while it was going on, I feel sorry for them. They really missed out.
“I don't think he ever got the recognition he deserved,” former teammate John Scott told NBC Sports Chicago’s Scott King on Wednesday night. “I always say this, I was lucky enough to play with him. He was the most underrated player of our generation.”
Scott knows what he saw. So do we. What Hossa gave us over eight years made him a Chicago icon, a player who should one day see his #81 raised to the United Center rafters and a guy who will never have to pay for a shot of Malort in town again.
Is Hossa a first-ballot Hall of Famer? I can’t give an answer to that as doing so would validate the thought there was ever a question.
But as the Hockey Hall of Fame happily confirmed on Wednesday, there was not.
Know a Hossa fan who would like to read this? Share it with them!
(It’s one of my favorites.)
We now know the three teams the Fire will be playing in the World Cup-style tournament in Orlando that MLS is using to return to play.
- Wednesday, July 8 — Nashville FC — 9:30 pm, ESPN
- Tuesday, July 14 — Inter Miami — 8 am, ESPN
- Sunday, July 19 — NYCFC — 7 pm, FS1
Here are all six groups. The Fire are in the six-team Group A, which will guarantee at least three teams (instead of two) getting through to the knockout round.
Combine this with the Red Stars’ appearance in the NWSL tournament (they’ll begin Saturday night at 9 against the Washington Spirit on CBS All Access) and Chicago soccer teams will get a good run before the baseball teams, the Blackhawks and Bears start back up. It’s a good opportunity for both squads to add to their fanbases.
Have a link for Midway Minute? Email me!
• Have you ever been so happy to see a bunch of duffel bags?
• Danny Parkins reported Wednesday that the White Sox are planning on having a limited of number of fans at games this year. If that happens, hard to believe the Cubs won’t do the same. (Bleacher Nation)
• Who killed Jay Cutler’s chickens? (Fansided)
• Hawks d-man Doug Wilson also got into the Hall on Wednesday after a 24-year wait. Wilson has been more associated with the Sharks in his post-playing career, so the reaction in Chicago was maybe more muted than it should have been. He’s still more than deserving and it’s a great memory for anyone who saw him dominate the blue line at Chicago Stadium. (Forbes)
• Why the Bears believe Ted Ginn can make Allen Robinson even better. (NBC Sports Chicago)
• Kealia Watt on why she requested a trade to the Red Stars, leaving Houston and her husband JJ behind. (Tribune)
• Not sure I’d give Ohio State and Purdue three guys apiece when my Badgers are only getting two (where’s Sam Dekker?), but I love this exercise all the same.
• Finally, I may have started a massive pile-on for the new Rangers ballpark on Twitter yesterday. (To be fair, the team deserves it.)
Thank you for being a #frentofthenewsletter. Let’s have ourselves a Thursday.