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Toews' hometown debut happy time for family, friends

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IN the wake of the Jets' loss and the Blackhawks 5-1 win, one of the hallways of the MTS Centre at least was choked with fans wearing red and black, and beaming grins.

There, outside the entrance to the visitors' rooms, was a gaggle of Jonathan Toews' family and friends. In the morning, the Blackhawks captain wasn't sure how many of them were coming to see his hometown NHL debut.

He left the logistics to his mom, Andree. In the end, there were perhaps a couple of dozen folks in Toews and Duncan Keith jerseys filling up the hallway, although they wouldn't have long to say their hellos and goodbyes.

"Twenty minutes, 10 minutes, not even," said Toews, 25, before the Hawks had to get to the airport and hop a plane home to Chicago.

Or Toews' season-home, at least. It was a curious experience, he agreed, rolling into Winnipeg on Friday and having a chance to go out for dinner with some of his friends and family. Strange too to see his hometown in the swing of the season -- normally, he's only here when the leaves are on the trees, and the sun is baking the streets.

Soon, as the Jets and Blackhawks snuggle up in the Central Division, that will be old news. But on Saturday, it was still new.

"Just to be back here, and kind of think about where I grew up, and all the rinks I grew up playing hockey at, to be playing at this level in my hometown is a pretty special thing," Toews said, a few hours before the puck dropped on the afternoon game.

Once it did, Toews said later, everything fell into place. Maybe his squad was a little slow to jump into the midday game, he said, and the Jets responded by bringing scoring chances for the first period.

Toews' line particularly was a few shivers off their step -- in fact, Saturday snapped his five-game point streak.

"We didn't get too much going, we didn't get that puck control we wanted to," said Toews, still the Blackhawks' leading scorer with 13 points in 14 games.

"Nice play by (Marian) Hossa on (Patrick) Sharp's goal there, so either way, as a line, I think with Sharpie and Hoss we're gonna find ways to create offence, even if it's not quite clicking for us," said Toews, who finished with two shots in 18:25 of ice time.

"Today was a little more difficult to get things going, but not to worry. I think sometimes you have days like that. You bounce back."

Besides, there was a built-in silver lining to this game. Being at home and hearing the roar of the crowd -- though he was surely not too sad the Blackhawks silenced that early in the second frame.

"I've been hearing for a long time about the atmosphere," Toews said. "It's a great building, the fans are really excited... It's fun to see what it's all about, and to be back here in Winnipeg. It was a nice win for our team, and overall I definitely enjoyed it.

"It was nice to be home."

melissa.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 3, 2013 B3

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