Marian Hossa is about to learn that signing elsewhere makes you the enemy.
Hossa played for the Pittsburgh Penguins in last year's Stanley Cup final, then played turncoat by joining the Detroit Red Wings, the team that beat them.
Now the talented forward will face his former team in the rematch, beginning with Game 1 at Joe Louis Arena on Saturday (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 7:30 p.m. ET).
"I have to make this not too big a distraction," he said. "I just have to use it as an advantage."
"It should be interesting," Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury admitted. "We all know the reason why he left us to go there."
Last summer, Hossa spurned a multi-year contract offer from Pittsburgh, reportedly worth $49 million US, and untold millions more from the Edmonton Oilers to sign a discounted, one-year deal with Detroit.
The Red Wings offered him only $7.5 million US, and, to the surprise of everyone, he accepted.
"I have never been involved in a deal and seen a player get so excited to take $85 million less than he was offered elsewhere," Rich Winter, Hossa's agent, told The Canadian Press at the time. "It is almost incomprehensible, even to an agent, but Marian is a special player."
Hossa figured the Red Wings were a better bet to repeat as Stanley Cup champions — a feat last accomplished by, who else, Detroit in 1997 and 1998 — than the Penguins were to win it all.
Little did he know Detroit would wind up playing Pittsburgh in the first rematch of Stanley Cup finalists since the Edmonton Oilers and New York Islanders in 1983 and 1984.
"Being in the finals, that is motivation," Hossa said. "Last year, I lost it, so this is another chance.
"It is going to be hard. But it's a good chance."
'It is a unique situation right now'
There is also a good chance Pittsburgh, led by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and firing on all cylinders without him, could unseat the defending champions, leaving Hossa without a Stanley Cup ring and having lost a ton of money and contract security.
"It is a unique situation right now," Hossa said. "Definitely, this doesn't happen often, but I will try to make the best of the situation for myself and try to help the team win a Cup."
Detroit, that is. Hossa was vilified for defecting in his first return visit to Pittsburgh on Feb. 8.
But Penguins defenceman Brooks Orpik isn't convinced a similar reception will rattle him when the series shifts venues to Mellon Arena for Games 3, 4 and, if necessary, 6.
"I know myself, as a player, when players get booed in other buildings, it just motivates you and makes you want to want to do better," he said. "If our fans want to boo him, I don't know how much good it is going to do us, because he is a great player.
"It was weird what happened, but everyone respects him as a guy and as a player. It was a tough decision for him, but we have got a chance to beat him here."
"It will be cool to face him, but we cannot overthink it," Fleury noted.
Hossa led the Red Wings with 40 goals during the regular season and though his six post-season goals have come in just three games — all Game 4s — he remains a force to be reckoned with.
"I thought he was the best player on the ice last night," Red Wings general manager Ken Holland told reporters Thursday, less than 24 hours after Detroit had eliminated the Chicago Blackhawks 2-1 in overtime in Game 5 of the Western Conference final.
"I also thought he was also the best player on the ice in the previous game at Chicago. We were missing Pavel Datsyuk and Nicklas Lidstrom in both games, and it was great to have him step up like he did."
"We will see what happens," Hossa grinned.