Five All-Star Games, three consecutive Stanley Cup Finals — including a championship with the Blackhawks in 2010 — 426 goals and 999 games later, Hossa still is going strong after that Oct. 1, 1997 debut. The winger will play in his 1000th career game Sunday when the Hawks face the Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.
"When I started as an 18-year-old in Ottawa I never thought about maybe one day I could reach 1,000 games," Hossa, 34, said. "I just try to go season by season and be a better and better player. It's a huge milestone. I'm just glad to be among those players who have reached it."
Hossa will be the 283rd player in NHL history to reach the 1,000-game mark and he will do it while in his fourth season as a member of the Hawks and playing against one of his former teams. After the Senators selected him in the first round (12th overall) of the 1997 entry draft, Hossa also played for the Thrashers and Penguins.
"Playing with so many different great players definitely means something to me," the Stara Lubovna, Slovakia, native said.. "(It has been) lots of great teams with lots of great players and lots of good memories."
Perhaps Hossa's greatest legacy is the impact he has had on teammates. In addition to being one of the most talented players in the league, he's also been one of its classiest.
"It's amazing to see a guy like that reach that point in his career," Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "I remember watching him play for the Senators and him being one of my favorite players. To have a chance to play with him now and to win a Stanley Cup with him … is pretty special … a huge honor."
The seven-time, 30-plus goal scorer remains at the top of his game as his nine goals and eight assists in 21 games this season makes Hossa the Hawks' third-leading scorer behind Patrick Kane and Toews.
"Even today there are times when probably once or twice a game on the bench I'm kind of shaking my head at what he does," Kane said. "He seems to be at the top of his game now. He's really nice, down-to-earth, funny and witty too."
When he takes the ice Sunday to try to help the Hawks extend their streak of regulation games without a loss to start the season to 22, it will be against a Wings team that Hossa helped to the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals. A few months later he signed a 12-year, $63.3 million free-agent contract with the Hawks.
"We're fired up he has the (milestone) game here even though he was here for a short (time)," forward Henrik Zetterberg told reporters Saturday in Detroit. "He left positive marks here for us. He's a great player and having 1,000 games is awesome. We're just happy we're going to be a part of it."
Despite his many accomplishments, Hossa still has motivation to remain at the top of his game.
"The Cup is the No. 1 thing," Hossa said. "That's why you play this game to win the trophy. It's definitely the No. 1 thing in my mind."