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Wings' Hossa gets loud reception at Mellon

| Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Fans at Mellon Arena were going wild for Penguin-turned-Red Wing Marian Hossa on Tuesday night during Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final.

Well, that's what Hossa told himself.

"Maybe not many people know boo in Slovak means 'Go, Marian, go,'" the Slovakia native said jokingly before yesterday's game.

The boos were rampant during the Penguins' 4-2 victory in which Hossa was unable to record a point.

Every time Hossa went near the puck, Mellon Arena resonated with boos. They were more like you're-a-traitor, we-despise-you, we-can't-believe-you-left-us boos. They weren't endearing in the least bit, although Hossa tried to convince himself otherwise.

"I try to use it as motivation, and I'm gonna use it to try to get me going every time I get a puck," Hossa said. "I just have to focus on my game."

This time last year, Hossa — who was acquired from the Atlanta Thrashers at the trade deadline — was playing for the Penguins and aided their run to the Stanley Cup Final, where they lost to Detroit.

He was adored by Penguins fans every step of the way.

Then this past July, he signed a one-year contract with the Red Wings instead of a multiyear deal with the Penguins. Doing it was one thing. Explaining why he did it really made Pittsburgh turn on him.

"When I compared the two teams," said Hossa, when he signed with the Red Wings, "I felt like I would have a better chance to win the Cup in Detroit."

Hossa could be right, but Penguins fans are set on making every bit of his experience miserable. In a 3-0 Red Wings' victory — which included a Hossa goal — at Mellon Arena during the regular season, he was booed mercilessly.

Hossa got the message early during the opening game of this series when he absorbed a crushing open-ice hit from Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik.

Last night, the crowd did their part.

When Hossa touched the puck for the first time 1:35 into the game, the boos began. They persisted until the final horn.

Hossa wasn't visibly affected, and his teammates didn't expect him to be.

"I think he's got a great demeanor, so I don't think it's going to be an issue for him," Detroit left wing Kirk Maltby said. "Obviously, he knows what happened in the regular season and the magnitude of this series. These games are obviously a lot bigger. He knows he has to prepare mentally."

Hossa has spoken carefully since this series began, making sure not to give the Penguins or their fans any more fuel to throw into to the fire.

"I had a great four months in this building," Hossa said. "The fans are fantastic. They are emotional, and they let you know what they're feeling."

While the fans have been more boisterous about their ill will toward Hossa, the Penguins have been less vocal regarding the situation.

"We'll just try," Penguins center Max Talbot said, "to prove him wrong."

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