Hometown honours a winner

City welcomes Toews, Cup with open arms

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Winnipeg caught Toews mania Sunday as thousands of delighted fans celebrated the return of a local hockey star with a world-class personality.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 12/07/2010 (4582 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Winnipeg caught Toews mania Sunday as thousands of delighted fans celebrated the return of a local hockey star with a world-class personality.

Chicago Blackhawks captain, Stanley Cup winner and Olympic gold medallist Jonathan Toews took a tour with the Cup in his hometown Sunday.

 The legislature:

DAVID LIPNOWSKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Mayor Sam Katz renames the former Dakota Community Centre the Jonathan Toews Community Centre as the modest Blackhawks star shows his gratitude.

If Jonathan Toews’ name wasn’t already engraved in Manitoba’s history and collective identity, it certainly is now.

Sunday morning, the provincial government named a Manitoba lake after the Winnipeg-raised sports star.

Fans decked out in Toews’ number 19 Chicago jerseys squeezed into the cabinet room at the Manitoba legislature to watch him receive his commemorative naming certificate from Premier Greg Selinger.

The pristine Toews Lake is located 150 kilometres north of Flin Flon.

"We were trying to think of something unique and enduring" to honour Toews, Selinger said. "It’s rare," he said of the naming. "We do it for people who make an outstanding contribution in their field."

"I never imagined something like this would happen — a lake named after me in my home province," said Toews, an avid fisher. He joked that he’ll build a road so people can visit his lake.

"It’s not just about winning the games, it’s about how you handle yourself," Selinger said of Toews, known for his good nature and dignity. One of his nicknames is Captain Serious.

 City hall:

Toews’ next event was at city hall, where he displayed the Stanley Cup and his Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in this year’s NHL playoffs to enthusiastic fans. Hundreds of vocal supporters gathered outside city hall late Sunday morning to see him and the trophies. "Here he comes — I can feel it," one boy in the crowd said as spectators eyed a door expectantly. The group cheered wildly as Toews and Mayor Sam Katz finally came out, displaying Toews’ hard-won trophies.

 

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"He truly is the ultimate role model," Katz said of the young Winnipeg athlete he called "Winnipeg’s favourite son."

Toews was overwhelmed by the support he’s received.

"To realize how much support, how many fans I have in Winnipeg, and bringing the Stanley Cup to you, there’s nothing like it," he said.

His family stood by as the mayor presented him with a gold medallion and the key to the city.

"We’re just so proud of him and having him accomplish what he has accomplished in his young life," said his grandmother, Norma Toews. "I remember when he was just a little guy in hockey and he said to his mom and dad: ‘If I ever get to the NHL, I’ll buy you a big truck.’ "

Norma laughed off her grandson’s high ambitions at the time, but now she’s happy to eat her words. Toews was true to his word, purchasing an SUV for his parents, she said.

Despite the 22-year-old’s growing fame, it’s never gone to his head, said grandfather Leonard Toews. "I hope he doesn’t change. He’s a good boy. He’s stable."

Toews told the news media his humble attitude stems from his Winnipeg roots.

"Having come from this city, you realize that where you come from, there’s a lot of humble, down-(to)-earth people here and a lot of those people, I’m pretty sure, would handle it the way I am right now, so you enjoy the game for what it is," he said.

In addition to his sports skills, fans appreciate his own down-to-earth personality.

"It makes you feel really proud to be from Winnipeg because he’s such a class act," fan Ron Kunkel said. "He’s a total package — he works so hard and he’s a leader."

Kunkel was at city hall with his children, Thomas, 12, and Jenna, 7. Both are big Toews fans and have been following his career for years.

"He’s a good playmaker," said Thomas, adding that "it’s awesome" to get to see him with the Stanley Cup.

 

Parade in south St. Vital:

In the afternoon, Toews took his trophies for a spin in his childhood neighbourhood, south St. Vital. Flanked by family, young hockey players and politicians, the athlete was welcomed with roaring cheers as he rode by with his trophies in a yellow Corvette convertible. He rode from École Christine-Lespérance, where he once went to school, to the Dakota Community Centre, where he played hockey as a child.

Actually, that should be the former Dakota Community Centre. But we’ll get to that later.

 

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More than 1,000 fans, young and old, lined the streets to see him go by.

Young hockey players Devan Vercaigne, 10, and Garrett Urwin, 11, were ecstatic to have scored high-fives from a man they consider a role model.

"I’ll try to get to the NHL like him," said Devan, who lives in Toews’ south St. Vital stomping grounds.

The grinning pair said seeing Toews in the parade and high-fiving him was "awesome."

"He totally deserves the Conn Smythe (trophy for most valuable player) — he’s, like, the best player," Garrett said.

But Toews isn’t admired by these two just because of his hockey skills; they also appreciate his winning personality.

"I like that he’s nice and that he’s a very good player," Devan said.

 Dakota Community Centre:

In addition to a lake, Jonathan Toews now has a community centre in south St. Vital named after him. At a Sunday afternoon ceremony at what was for decades the Dakota Community Centre, thousands watched Mayor Sam Katz announce the arena will now be called Jonathan Toews Community Centre.

Toews was extremely honoured by the re-naming and for the exceptional turnout that host Ace Burpee, local radio DJ, jokingly said probably outshone that of the Queen. Ever the humble star, Toews thanked his family for all their support and included the crowd as part of that group.

"Now you guys are my family," he said to fans. "I didn’t expect you guys to come. Thanks so much."

sandy.klowak@freepress.mb.ca

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