Hossa back where he started
But the player with the biggest crowd around his locker stall after practice was Marian Hossa. Back in the place where he began his NHL career, Hossa drew an audience of a dozen members of the Canadian media.
This is where Hossa played his first NHL game as an 18-year-old, having been drafted 12th overall by the Senators in 1997 after playing one season with Portland of the Western Hockey League. He was on a team with Daniel Alfredsson and Alexei Yashin.
"I was a young guy, didn't know what to expect," said Hossa, who first played for Ottawa one year after leaving his native Slovakia. "It was good for me to be here in the beginning."
Hossa went on to play six full seasons in Ottawa, averaging 35 goals per year over the final five seasons.
"I always like it here," said Hossa. "It was my beginnings here, so I have great memories for Ottawa. Everything I went through here was fun, the fans especially were great."
At the age of 25, however, Hossa was traded with defenseman Greg deVries for Atlanta's Dany Heatley. The deal's genesis was Heatley's request for a new environment after being in a car accident that killed his Thrasher teammate, Dan Snyder.
Since the trade, Hossa has produced like a player in his prime, averaging 37 goals per season over the past three seasons, including a 100-point campaign. Part of Hossa's success has come at the expense of his former team with the big Slovak getting 18 points in 11 games against the Senators, entering Saturday night's game.
After the local reporters had asked all of their questions, Hossa had a few queries of his own. The new Red Wing made sure to ask about the health of his former Ottawa teammate, Alfredsson, who had knee arthroscopic knee surgery Friday.
It has been nearly four years since Hossa last wore a Senators jersey, but the connection between player and first pro team is rarely lost.