Former Chicago Blackhawks winger Marian Hossa opened up to The Athletic about the skin disorder that led him to step away from hockey after the 2016-17 season.
Hossa, who had four seasons left on his contract at a $5.275 million cap hit when he left the game, revealed he was taking a drug called Cyclosporine to deal with his condition in his final season, but required bi-weekly blood tests to watch for potentially dangerous side effects.
The now-40-year-old said he didn't originally know if he'd hang up his skates after the Blackhawks first-round playoff exit, but made his decision shortly after the season.
“I wasn’t really thinking about the end, it just come basically, the eczema kind of told me, you know,” Hossa told Scott Powers. “My body told me there was no other way. That’s when I had to start thinking, well, it could be. Because my skin is almost like breaking. It’s leaking from the wounds. I’m missing practices.
“That’s the one thing, I was still in great shape. I felt good. But I came home, I was afraid to touch my kids because (my) skin was not in a good shape. I said I’m not supposed to be like this. I’m not supposed to eat pills to play hockey. Those pills are not easy pills. Those are hard pills. Every second week I have to go to hospital to check my blood. If those pills don’t affect me, something else.
“I said at what point should I be doing this to keep going? I have a life. I have a young family. I don’t want to risk it with another year with the pills on me. So I just came to the thing where I had to make a big decision and I have to be like, ‘Body says you have to stop.’”
Hossa scored 26 goals and tallied 45 points in 73 games in his final season and there were some who questioned the validity of his condition, since his contract was back-diving and would have paid him just $1 million in each of his final four seasons.
Hossa said he can understand why those questions were raised, but noted the NHL put him through a physical before the 2017-18 season.
“If you go over the issue, this would be the first thing about it, they’re checking,” Hossa said. “So, yeah, you cannot blame those people and fans of other teams. After later on, we knew maybe somebody would question this because it looks like this is how they want to write it down. But the good thing I had 20-something goals that year. I felt fresh. I would finish my career that way if I felt so good. I loved the game, I loved Chicago, I loved the fans and the organization. For me, that was tough - kind of like, ‘OK, I’m not going to play next year maybe.’
“But people look at it a different way. They didn’t understand because they didn’t see me every day. They didn’t know what I went through and these things. You cannot blame them.”
The Blackhawks traded Hossa's contract to the Arizona Coyotes last July as part of a package deal and he remains on injured reserve with the Coyotes.
Hossa played 1,309 NHL games, recording 525 goals and 1,134 points. He is a three-time Stanley Cup Champion and sits 35th all-time in goals scored in the NHL.