Old friends Hossa, Gaborik vie for chance at Cup
|Old friends Marian Gaborik and Marian Hossa were teammates in the 2012 NHL All-Star Game (Getty Images).|
CHICAGO -- There are towns in the United States and Canada the Stanley Cup has never visited, but the trophy is pretty much an unofficial citizen in Trencin, Slovakia.
Trencin is a city of less than 60,000 not far from the border with the Czech Republic. Five times in the past six summers, the Cup has paid a visit to Trencin, and there's a good chance it could be six in seven.
It is the town where Marian Hossa of the Chicago Blackhawks and Marian Gaborik of the Los Angeles Kings live in the offseason.
"We know each other when we were real young," Hossa said. "Obviously my brother grew up with Marian because they [are the] same age, three years younger than I am (35). When I was younger, I used to go watch their games when they play as young kids. Marian was always the one who was scoring goals. My brother was the passer. So I know him really when he was little kid.
"Now we [are] neighbors. We live on the same street. We hang out in the summer together. So obviously we got lots to talk about every time we see each other. Right now, came to the point where we not going to talk for two weeks. We try to do our business on the ice. When everything is over, we go back to friendship."
Trencin is the hometown of Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara, who lives on the same street as Hossa and Gaborik. The first player to bring the Cup to Trencin was Tomas Kopecky of the Detroit Red Wings in 2008; Miroslav Satan of the Pittsburgh Penguins followed in 2009.
After losing in the Stanley Cup Final in consecutive years with two teams, Hossa won with the Blackhawks in 2010. Chara followed the next year. After a one-year hiatus, it was guaranteed a return trip when Hossa and Chara squared off in the 2013 Cup Final.
A similar story has occurred in the 2014. With Hossa and Gaborik meeting in the Western Conference Final, Trencin is guaranteed to have one of its residents in the Cup Final. Chicago leads the best-of-7 series 1-0 with Game 2 at United Center on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN, RDS).
"We hang out often during the offseason," Gaborik said. "We've been in touch up to the start of the series. That's pretty much it. So no interactions now and no bets or whatever."
Gaborik and Hossa have played together for Slovakia on several occasions, but a collarbone injury kept Gaborik from the 2014 Sochi Olympics. He's put a disappointing season behind him with a star turn during the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
He leads the NHL with nine goals and is second to linemate Anze Kopitar with 15 points. Hossa is sixth with 13 points.
"[Gaborik] is, and always was, a pure sniper," Hossa said. "You give him a little time, he can release it really quick and can surprise you. He has an unbelievable shot. And his speed, when he gets going, you must know where he is; especially in the middle zone, he can use his speed extremely well. In one second he's behind you and you won't catch him, so you want to make sure you know where he is all the time."