NHL

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Jonny be good, really good

Captain Serious brings his elite-level game home to 'Peg

  • Print
Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews makes his NHL debut in Winnipeg this afternoon at the MTS Centre.

NAM Y. HUH / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ARCHIVES Enlarge Image

Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews makes his NHL debut in Winnipeg this afternoon at the MTS Centre.

Jonathan TOEWS epitomizes the phrase all-business, as the nickname Captain Serious attests, but even he admits this working trip is a little different.

Toews has become Winnipeg's favourite homegrown hockey product, picking up where Mike Keane left off. Today will be the first regular-season game Toews will play against the Jets in Winnipeg.

The captain of the Chicago Blackhawks, who grew up idolizing his hometown Jets, will be playing in a game today he once believed would never happen. Toews spoke to the Free Press on the phone on Friday before he boarded the Hawks' flight to Winnipeg.

"It means a lot," Toews said. "I was just telling a few people about Winnipeg and how I grew up loving the Winnipeg Jets and going to games with my brother and my dad was our favourite thing. It's where the dream of playing in the NHL was born inside me. For a long time it didn't look like this game would be realistic and that we would ever see the Jets back in Winnipeg. Now I'm coming home to play the Jets and it's a pretty cool thing. It's pretty hard to believe."

This trip was to include a dinner with family and friends on Friday night and then a game that Toews admits could be emotional.

He grew up playing hockey on Winnipeg's indoor and outdoor rinks before heading down the road to the University of North Dakota for college hockey. Drafted in the first round, third overall, by the Blackhawks in 2006, Toews has become one of the best players in the world and already has an Olympic gold medal and two Stanley Cups at the age of 25.

"There are a lot of guys that have his skill, but his drive and his competitiveness is what make him a cut above everyone else," said Jets captain Andrew Ladd, who won a Stanley Cup with Toews in Chicago in 2010. "He wants to win every little battle and the best at everything. That's what's pushed him to where he is. He has the drive that separates him from the good players. That's what makes him great."

Toews, who has 174 goals and 385 points in 421 career NHL games, is frequently mentioned in the list of the game's best two-way players.

"He's got the shot and the skills to put up bigger numbers," said Ladd. "But he gives up opportunities. You look at (Ilya) Kovalchuk when he was in our league or (Alex) Ovechkin, they take chances. They get a lot of opportunities and they score goals, but they also give up some stuff the other way. The trade-off is, maybe you're willing to take the chance to get the goal and have it go in your net too, every once in a while. That's why Chicago is such a successful team, because their top guys play the right way."

Ladd knows Toews will want to win today and that will make Ladd's goal of spoiling the homecoming all the sweeter.

"That's one of the most fun things about playing your friends in the NHL. Beating them and getting the upper hand," said Ladd. "Especially knowing how competitive (Toews) is and how badly it will piss him off to beat him in this building. It should be a lot of fun."

Jets winger Michael Frolik was with the Blackhawks last spring when they won the Stanley Cup and said from the moment he got to Chicago he knew who was the leader.

"I walked in there and (Toews) shook my hand and welcomed me, and as time moved on he made me understand the way they did things in Chicago," said Frolik. "He's still a young guy, but he's a great captain. It's not about yelling all the time, and he will yell if he has to, but more about presence. The guys in that room demand a lot from one another and it starts with him."

Toews and the Hawks were young when they won their first Cup in 2010 and the following season was a disappointment. Experience has prepared them better for this bid to repeat says Toews, who has seven goals and six assists through 13 games this season.

"Our experience is helping us now and I think it will help us down the road," he said. "Our leadership knows what it takes day in and day out to be a solid team and once we get away from that even a little, we get on each other, knowing it's not acceptable. Winning and playing good team hockey is the most important thing to our group and we know what that can lead to."

No doubt there will be a rousing ovation for Toews at some point today, but as much as he's a local hero he's also the enemy. Toews is unsure how he would feel about being the target of the MTS Centre's boo birds.

"I don't know what's going to happen, but if I'm the guy on my team that they decide to boo, I'll just try to stay on my game," he said laughing. "The people in Winnipeg have been amazing whenever I bring home the Stanley Cup. All these people that you don't really know but have been following your career since you were a kid... I'm looking forward to playing in front of the people of Winnipeg."

Toews says his summer visits to Winnipeg are always pretty similar.

"I like to see my family. Have a beer with my buddies at the Earls in St. Vital and play golf at Pine Ridge or Niakwa," he said.

And this one?

"I don't know what to expect in terms of how I feel, but I do know that I'll get comfortable and focused pretty quick. In the end, this will be about getting two points," he said.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @garylawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 2, 2013 C6

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Winnipeg Cheapskate: Home buying

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A Canada goose protects her nest full of eggs Monday on campus at the University of Manitoba- Standup photo- Apr 30, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • PHIL.HOSSACK@FREEPRESS.MB.CA 090728 / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS White Pelicans belly up to the sushi bar Tuesday afternoon at Lockport. One of North America's largest birds is a common sight along the Red RIver and on Lake Winnipeg. Here the fight each other for fish near the base of Red RIver's control structure, giving human fisher's downstream a run for their money.

View More Gallery Photos

About Gary Lawless

Gary Lawless is the Free Press sports columnist and co-host of the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg and www.winnipegfreepress.com
Lawless began covering sports as a rookie reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay after graduating from journalism school at Durham College in Ontario.
After a Grey Cup winning stint with the Toronto Argonauts in the communications department, Lawless returned to Thunder Bay as sports editor.
In 1999 he joined the Free Press and after working on the night sports desk moved back into the field where he covered pro hockey, baseball and football beats prior to being named columnist.

Poll

Which Jets prospect has the best chance of making NHL team this season?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google