Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks will trade in his NHL uniform for Team Canada duds at the upcoming Olympics Games in Vancouver. (Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)
There’s no doubt Sidney Crosby is the face of Canadian hockey – heck, he’s the face of the NHL – and if anyone doubts it, check a Crosby Tim Hortons commercial or two. But Chicago’s (and Winnipeg’s, and Canada’s) Jonathan Toews is fast-becoming Canada’s next great puck ambassador.
Toews is already that in Chicago, where he’s the Blackhawks captain and the face of a franchise that has leaped back into prominence – both locally and NHL-wide – with its quick rise to contention.
Individually, the Canadian Olympian is enjoying another fine season with 17 goals and 42 points in 46 games. He’s a plus-17, kills penalties, anchors the power play and is the best faceoff man on the team (sixth in the league). And the Hawks? They’re sitting pretty at No. 2 overall, a definitive Stanley Cup contender.
But it’s about more than on-ice performance.
When contacted, the Hawks public relations department said Toews always makes time for community visits and autograph signings and is “out and about in the community as much as, if not more than, every other guy on our roster.”
An example of Toews’ (and Patrick Kane’s, for that matter) willingness to be front and center happened last season. The two put forth the idea to surprise a local youth team one morning, leading to a classic video that showed off their fun sides.
Those fun sides were on display again Saturday night after the Hawks-Canucks game. Toews and Kane (sounds like a band name, or a tag team – which I guess they kind of are) appeared on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada: After Hours. The two were a delight to watch. The 21-year-olds were outgoing, humble and had fun with and at the expense of each other – Toews, especially. He’s a good-looking, personable kid whose answers to questions were intelligent and thoughtful, with very little hockey-speak included.
Toews’ teammates call him ‘Captain Serious’ because of his on-ice demeanor and the way he deals with the media, but that sure didn’t come through after the game Saturday, even though the Hawks were routed 5-1 by the Canucks.
Showing his cheeky side, Toews needled Kane about the 2007 world juniors, when Canada beat Kane’s Team USA side in the semifinals on the back of three Toews shootout goals, all of which were replayed for the pair to watch.
He showed it again when he quipped “Do you have that clip, too?” in reference to Kane running into the captain, whose visor split him open, on Kane’s bobble head night earlier this year no less.
Toews was open and honest about the ‘Captain Serious’ moniker saying that, with regards to the media, he was simply trying to find his way while dealing with the differences between the NCAA and the NHL and adding: “You have to find a way to forget about the game sometime.”
As our resident savant, Ken Campbell, points out in the upcoming Feb. 8 THN cover story on Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, the former seems to have found a comfort zone with the media and his public persona this season, while the latter is retreating from the spotlight.
Toews is clearly on the Crosby track and, in fact, looks to have found his comfort zone earlier than ‘The Kid.’ He lets his guard down and is willing to show his personality – some quick-wit, but also an ability to be frank – in front of the camera.
As for Toews becoming the face – or, at least, a second face – of Canadian hockey, it’ll be based on his personality, but also his back-story. CBC aired a great photo of his backyard-cum-local rink growing up, one in which a beautiful sheet of ice, complete with boards, is surrounded by green/yellow fields in early November.
When asked how that was possible, Toews said his dad used to go around to all the local arenas and collect the snow left outside by the Zambonis. Then he’d truck it back to the house to pack the snow onto the rink surface as a homemade cooling system, so that Toews and his younger brother (David, the 66th overall pick by the Islanders in 2008) could have ice as early as possible.
Now if that’s not the essence of Canadiana, I don’t know what is.
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