SOCHI, Russia -- First he picked up the sword. Then he picked up his team. Then his country and finally its flag.
Winnipeg's Jonathan Toews, the greatest money player on the hockey planet, has authored another golden moment. With a nation crammed into bars, family rooms and even watching on a big screen in a Halifax church, Toews popped the bubble and let Canada breathe, scoring at 7:05 of the first period. The goal would stand as Toews led a landslide Sunday that saw Sweden penned in its own zone for most of the game in a 3-0 gold-medal win.
If one judges on the ability to score, defend and win, Toews is the most complete hockey player in the world. His resumé now reads: Two-time Stanley Cup winner, two-time Olympic gold medallist, World Championship gold medallist, two-time World Junior Championship gold medallist, Conn Smythe winner, member of the Triple Gold Cup as a winner of an Olympic Games gold medal, a World Championship gold medal and the Stanley Cup.
'You're measured by goals and assists. It's hard to overcome that and convince yourself that you're playing well because you're winning. For Jonathan and Sidney, playing the right way and winning games comes first'
The Hall of Fame isn't dialling just yet but they've got his number and it's only a matter of time.
Team Canada coach Mike Babcock recognized the worth of Toews in 2010, moving him up in the lineup and eventually watching him be named that tournament's top forward. In these Olympics, Babcock relied on Toews more than any other forward. In all but one of Canada's games, Toews led his team's forward group in ice-time, including the 19 minutes and 13 seconds he played Sunday.
For the second Olympic tournament in a row Canada won the gold medal. This time Sidney Crosby wore the captain's C for Canada and Toews was one of his alternates. But they led together.
"You're measured by goals and assists. It's hard to overcome that and convince yourself that you're playing well because you're winning. For Jonathan and Sidney, playing the right way and winning games comes first," said Team Canada GM Steve Yzerman. "After games and practices you could see them talking in the room and leading. That's why we won. Our leaders and our best players said, 'we're gonna win. We're gonna play the right way and forget about goals and statistics. And we're going to win.' A big reason we won because they committed to winning and set the right tone."
More than anything, Toews is about winning. It can be seen on a nightly basis in the NHL where he sacrifices offence to provide defence. He never cheats for the offensive play, always making sure his net is protected.
In 2010 he scored Canada's first goal in the gold-medal game and he did it again on Sunday. Held off the board through his team's first five games Toews saved his offensive moment for the largest of stages.
"I think like in 2010, it just felt like it was coming. I know I kept telling you guys that it was a lot like the playoffs last year, that I was just sticking with it and trying to find a gritty one. I knew something was going to land on my tape at some point," said Toews. "It happened to be (Sunday). It's a pretty good feeling to get one and get our team off to the right start."
Canada becomes the first team to win back-to-back gold medals since the Soviet Union won gold at the 1984 and 1988 Olympic Winter Games. Canada last won back-to-back Olympic gold at the St. Moritz 1948 and Oslo 1952 Olympic Winter Games, also the last time they won gold outside of North America.
On Sunday, after the flowers and medals had been handed out, Toews gave Canada a salute of his own, picking up a flag that had settled on the ice and skating around the Bolshoy IceDome arena waving it. It's an image Canadians will see splashed across newspapers and television screens again and again.
"I'm not really the flashy guy who does those sorts of things. I was pretty excited out there," smiled Toews. "It definitely was a different atmosphere in Vancouver, and being in front of your home fans, but it was still great to see a lot of people up there. A lot of the athletes that we've gotten to know over the last couple of weeks, even people we got to see and know in Vancouver -- some crazy Canadian fans too. It's tough to fill the building with people coming from all the way over from home, but it's nice to see that support."
NHL player participation for the 2018 Winter Games in Korea is in doubt. What isn't, is Toews and his impact on Team Canada. If the NHL is back and so too is Toews, get ready for a three-peat.
Jonathan Toews is complete. And lucky for us, he's completely Canadian.
email@example.com Twitter: @garylawless