As It Happens·New

'There is life after the game,' NHLer forced to quit over equipment allergy tells Marian Hossa

Tom Reid's NHL career ended in 1978 from the painful rash that stripped the skin from his upper body. Now he says Marian Hossa could be suffering from the "gunk."
Marian Hossa, veteran Chicago Blackhawks winger, released a statement citing a "progressive skin condition" as the reason he will not be returning to the NHL in the fall. (Rocky W. Widner/NHL/Getty Images)
Listen6:32

Read Story Transcript

Three-time Stanley Cup winner Marian Hossa won't be playing this coming season. 

The veteran Chicago Blackhawks winger and former Ottawa Senator announced this morning in a statement that because of a "progressive skin condition" and the treatments he's taking to control it, he won't be back on the ice this fall. 

While it's unclear what exactly is going on with Hossa's skin, it's not unheard of for players to develop a skin allergy to their hockey equipment.

It's often referred to by players as the "gunk," and it caused former defenceman Tom Reid, who also played with the Blackhawks, to retire from the game in 1978 after 11 years in the NHL.

Reid, who owns a hockey pub and works as a radio broadcaster for the Minnesota Wild, spoke with As It Happens host Carol Off about the "gunk" and how it ended his career. Here is part of their conversation. 

Tom Reid played in the NHL for 11 years before a skin allergy forced him to retire. He played his first two seasons for the Chicago Blackhawks before he was traded to the Minnesota North Stars. (Steve Babineau/NHLI/ Getty Images)

CO: Tom, do you have any sense what Marian Hossa is going through right now?

TR: I think I do because I was in the same situation as Marian that all of a sudden you wake up one day and realize you might not be able to play the game anymore at the highest level.

There's obviously disappointment with it. You want to go out when you feel like going out. You don't want to go out on an injury or illness of some kind.

CO: What's it like, this condition, this rash, that you developed as a hockey player?

TR: I'm not sure if it's the same thing he has. But in my situation, I had no skin from my waist to  below my neck. Upper chest area on the front and back. I was secreting like a bloody, pussy liquid at its worst, where I would have to wrap myself in towels to protect my clothes as best I could.

The problem with that is when it dried up, and you take the towel off, you reopen the wound, so there was never any relief from it. The more I played, the more difficult it became for me to play.

The only relief I got from it was being away from the ice.

Head Coach Tom Reid of the Minnesota North Stars Alumni arrives prior to the 2016 Coors Light Stadium Series Alumni Game. (Eliot J. Schechter/NHLl/Getty Images)

CO: What was it diagnosed as being? What did they say it was?

TR: They said it was the gunk. Nobody had a name for it. They couldn't figure out what it was because it was kind of like a perfect storm. It was a combination of my body chemistry, it was the friction of the equipment, it was the heat generated and the perspiration. Those four things together created a problem for me.

The word 'gunk' came for it because they didn't have a name for it. I was going to the No. 2 dermatology centre in the United States in Marshfield, Wis., and they tried everything.

'They said, "You know we cannot continue to give you the steroids and the cortisone shots anymore. You'll be dead by the time you're 40.'"- Tom Reid 

They did everything they possibly could but at some point they said, "You know we cannot continue to give you the steroids and the cortisone shots anymore. You'll be dead by the time you're 40." 

That kind of painted a picture for me that, sayonara, I'm out of here. And so I left the game and it was a difficult time in those days too for me to walk away. I figured I had another three, four, five years remaining, but I never got to that point.

The 38-year-old was drafted 12th overall in 1997 by the Ottawa Senators. He has won three Stanley Cups with the Blackhawks. (Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

CO: Now you know there are skeptics about Mr. Hossa's announcement, the skin condition is why he has to depart from playing and the claim is that this is just a convenient way for the Chicago Blackhawks to get around their salary cap. What do you think of comments like that?

TR: I think they're very immature, to be honest with you. I mean, here's a guy who loves the game. Do you think he wants to go out with that hanging over him? Absolutely not. He's a very proud individual, he's had a great career and he doesn't want to be known as leaving the game because of a salary cap issue. He's leaving the game because he has a medical condition that is out of control.

Tom Reid is now a radio announcer for the Minnesota Wild. (Bruce Kluckhohn/Getty Images)

CO: What would you say to Marian Hossa if you could right now?

TR: Well you know, you've had a great ride and as difficult as it is, there is life after the game. He's going to be a Hall of Fame member, there's no question in my mind. He's been terrific for the Blackhawks … and he's got his name on the Stanley Cup, which a lot of people, including myself, can never say. He's had a wonderful career and he'll find that there is a life after hockey.

Chicago Blackhawks's Marian Hossa acknowledges the crowd's applause after scoring his 500th career goal. (Charles Rex Arbogast/The Associated Press)

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. For more, listen to our conversation with Tom Reid.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.