CHICAGO – When the franchise was looking to take the next step toward a championship, they made what some would argue is the biggest free agent pickup in the history of Chicago sports.

Marian Hossa was signed by the Blackhawks on July 1, 2009 to a 12-year, $62.8 million dollar contract as he joined a promising team hoping to end what was then a 49-year championship drought. Not only did he help the team win the Stanley Cup that season, but he’d also aid in title runs in 2013 and 2015.

His eight years in Chicago are some of the most celebrated in his career, which is why he signed a one-day contract with the Blackhawks on Thursday to officially retire with the team. After that happened, they showed why he’s one of the most revered players in the history of the franchise.

During their game with the Kraken at the United Center, the team announced that Hossa will have his No. 81 retired at some point during the 2022-2023 season. The Hockey Hall of Famer said that he got the news from team chairman Rocky Wirtz when he was informed that he would sign a one-day contract to retire with the Blackhawks.

“As a kid, we all dream to play one day in the National Hockey League, in the best league in the world. Then your goal is to win the Stanley Cup,” said Hossa. “Your goal is not going in the rafters. Your goal is not going to the Hall of Fame. But I guess, somebody really liked my game over those years, and with the success we had. I was lucky to play with some of the great players, great coaching staff. So thankful.

“So today, it’s amazing news for me and my family, and I’m overwhelmed. It still didn’t sink (in). It’s amazing.”

The honor for Hossa is a rare one in the history of Blackhawks hockey, as he becomes the eighth in the history of the franchise to have his number retired.

Stan Mikita was the first member of the Blackhawks to have his number retired, as his No. 21 went to the rafters in 1980. Bobby Hull’s No. 9 was retired by the team in 1983 with Glenn Hall (#1) and Tony Esposito (#35) getting the honor in 1988.

Those number retirements happened the Blackhawks played at Chicago Stadium, where Denis Savard made a lot of his memories on the ice with the team. His No. 18 would become the first to go to the rafters at the United Center in 1998, with the No. 3 of Pierre Pilote and Keith Magnuson being retired in 2008.

Hossa now joins that elite group after he scored 186 goals and had 229 assists in 534 regular season games in Chicago while adding 21 scores along with 52 helpers in 107 playoff contests. Hossa hasn’t played since the 2016-2017 season due to a skin condition and wouldn’t play again, with his contract being traded to the Coyotes in 2018.

That deal didn’t expire until 2021, hence the wait for an official retirement with the Blackhawks and an announcement on his number.

Hossa was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame this past November.

Fans found about about the number retirement during the first period as Hossa was preparing to watch what would be a 2-0 Blackhawks loss to the Kraken on Thursday night. He’d only returned to the United Center this week for the first time in four years, and he did take a moment to look up at the banners currently in the venue with the realization that he’d be there soon.

“I sat down there and I looked to the left and I saw those names and I still couldn’t believe my name next year is going to be up there. There’s only a handful of names or jerseys hanging,” said Hossa. “So to me, that’s amazing. I’m losing words.”

There have been many glowing ones to describe his career in Chicago, but one number can do all the talking from now on.