TORONTO – The last time Jonathan Toews was on the ice, he was carrying the Stanley Cup.
After two months and a summer full of celebrations, the captain of the Chicago Blackhawks is finally starting to miss the sport that’s made him famous.
“I haven’t been on ice at all since the last game of the year,” Toews said Friday. “I start skating next week. I think it’s a good thing to miss hockey a little bit because it’s such a long season and you need that desire to want to play, and play hard.
“I think I’ll have that definitely going back into training camp.”
It will be a season of unique challenges for a player who has already experienced a career’s worth of achievements at the tender age of 22. After all, what can you possibly do for an encore after winning Olympic gold, the Stanley Cup and the Conn Smythe Trophy in the span of four months?
Toews will also have to deal with even more demands on his time. He was in Toronto on Friday morning to announce a five-year partnership with Canadian Tire that will see him make appearances on behalf of the company, including participating in six hockey camps across the country starting with one in his hometown of Winnipeg next month.
In many ways, Toews is an ideal spokesman—extremely polite, incredibly well-spoken and fluent in both English and French. And his brand appeal has grown exponentially with the recent run of on-ice success, according to agent Pat Brisson of CAA Sports.
Toews’s parents, Bryan and Andree, watched proudly as their son posed for photos at a Canadian Tire on Friday. Just two decades earlier, his first set of skates were purchased at one of the chain’s stores.
The year has been as much of a whirlwind for them as it has for their son.
“It’s been so busy, so exciting—one thing after the other,” said Andree. “The Olympics was the most amazing time for us as a family. I seriously thought that I would never live to experience something more exciting in my life.
“And then a few months later I watched him lift the Stanley Cup. I cried.”
As proud as Toews is of the accomplishments, he’d prefer to look ahead rather than behind. It’s hard to go anywhere without meeting someone who wants to talk about the Stanley Cup, but in the back of his mind he knows a new journey is beginning.
“To a certain point, I think you kind of feel like it’s time to move on,” said Toews. “People want to keep talking about it for years to come, but I think for those of us that are going back to Chicago this year, we’re all excited to go back and see each other again and get things started. Hopefully we’ll have the same success next year.
“We’ve had our fair share of fun this summer and I think we’re ready to move on and get ready for training camp.”
Toews did take some time to try and recharge his batteries. Between an appearance with teammates on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” and two days of celebrations with the Stanley Cup in Winnipeg, he managed to get in some fishing and relaxing at the cottage.
He also went back and watched some video of the overtime goal teammate Patrick Kane scored against Philadelphia in Game 6 to win the championship.
“For the longest time, I didn’t have time to do anything like that,” said Toews. “(It was nice) to really slow down and appreciate it and relive the actual moment itself. You’ve got your own memories of what you went through, but to see it on TV and see it from a fans perspective … you get chills reliving that moment.”
It will be tough to duplicate. The Blackhawks have been the story of the NHL’s off-season after purging a number of players from their championship roster—including goaltender Antti Niemi and Toews’s former linemate Dustin Byfuglien—to stay under the salary cap.
Toews expects it to be a little strange when the team reports for training camp next month with a fair amount of new personnel. But he’s excited for the challenge.
“It’s just about getting those new guys on board,” said Toews. “We need to make them understand what the locker-room culture’s all about and how hard we work and what it takes to be a Blackhawk.
“This year we’re going to have a different team. … As a captain, I’ve got my work cut out for me I guess.”