Best of the Books: Jonathan Toews’ formative years

Ryan Kennedy
Jonathan Toews (Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

The backyard pond is an iconic place for many Canadians and growing up in Winnipeg, the Toews boys first demonstrated their competitiveness on such a sheet of ice.

“They played a lot of hours on the backyard pond,” said Bryan Toews, the father of the clan. “A few times we’d see sticks flying, but no bloody noses, so I guess they figured it out.”

Jonathan and David Toews both went on to play the sport at a high level, but the older brother and captain of the Chicago Blackhawks revealed that competition at home would help the brothers abroad.

“He definitely challenged me,” Jonathan said. “He was two years younger, so I shouldn’t have had to worry, but it was always competitive.”

Going through the local youth hockey circuit, Jonathan recalls he and his brother both being at the top of their age groups as they grew up. David was taken in the third round of the 2008 NHL draft by the New York Islanders and followed his older sibling to the University of North Dakota before switching to Brandon of the Western League in 2010-11. Jonathan’s path has already led to the highest echelons of hockey – just as he planned.

“For myself, there was no alternative,” Jonathan said. “One level after another, you get better.”

Jonathan showed promise right from the start. His dad remembers him traipsing through the house in his skates and that passion carried onto the ice.

“He had been skating by the time he was three-and-a-half and had a stride at four,” Bryan said. “That blew my mind.” Read more

Top 5 defensemen/forwards of all-time (sorry, we couldn’t come up with 10 good ones)

Dustin-Byfuglien-WPG

There was an item that came out of Toronto this week about the Maple Leafs toying with the idea of moving Jake Gardiner from defense to forward.

GM Dave Nonis told the Toronto Sun’s Steve Buffery the club’s brass has ruminated on the notion, since Gardiner had played some of his formative years up front, but indicated it’s not likely to transpire.

And that’s not surprising. At the NHL level, it’s rare for players to move between the back end and forward for a couple reasons.

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NFL’s “Redskins” days are numbered – are the NHL’s Blackhawks next?

Adam Proteau
Chicago Blackhawks Logo (Raymond Boyd/Getty Images)

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office sent shock waves through NFL circles Wednesday with its cancellation of six federal trademark patents for the name “Washington Redskins”. The league’s Washington franchise and its widely-loathed owner Dan Snyder had for years been in the crosshairs of critics who demanded the team change its name from Redskins; Snyder steadfastly threw out lame excuse after lame excuse for not adopting a different team name, but the ruling laid bare the core reason a change was long overdue.

“We decide, based on the evidence properly before us, that these registrations must be cancelled because they were disparaging to Native Americans at the respective times they were registered,” the Patent and Trademark Office wrote in its decision.

It’s expected Snyder will appeal Wednesday’s ruling, but he and those who defend the Redskins’ current moniker are standing on a rhetorical ice floe surrounded by heat lamps. It is but a matter of time until he’s forced to admit the battle is lost. That said, the focus on the Redskins name has led to others wondering why the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks aren’t facing similar questions, critiques and demands for change.

The answer is they shouldn’t. The Blackhawks name isn’t drenched in hate and the unspeakably horrific treatment of Native Americans as the Redskins name is. Chicago’s NHL team got its name in 1926, when owner Frederic McLaughlin decided to honor the 333rd Machine Gun Battalion of the 86th Division of the U.S. Army; McLaughlin had served in the unit, whose members called themselves the Black Hawks as a tribute to the Sauk Indian chief who fought alongside the British in the War of 1812.

The Redskins’ name, on the other hand, has undeniably racist, murderous roots. Comedian John Oliver provided a tremendous evisceration of Snyder and the Redskins on his HBO series “Last Week Tonight”: Read more

These Europeans could all be NHL coaches soon

Karri-Kivi

For a brief span in the early 2000s, the NHL had two European coaches. Ivan Hlinka ran the bench in Pittsburgh, while Alpo Suhonen was in charge of Chicago. It didn’t last long; 168 games combined, to be specific. But with New York Rangers assistant Ulf Samuelsson in the running for the position in Carolina, perhaps NHL teams are willing to look at hockey minds who weren’t born on this continent once again.

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Blackhawks odds-on favorite for 2015 Cup, that’s no surprise to Kings

Hawks

The Chicago Blackhawks have been installed by Bodog as the odds-on favorites to win the Stanley Cup in 2015 and if you listened to Los Angeles Kings GM Dean Lombardi and coach Darryl Sutter during their Stanley Cup celebration Friday night, you might want to put a few dollars down on the Blackhawks next season.

To hear the GM and coach of the best team in the NHL this season tell it, they feel the best team in the NHL last season is the biggest obstacle between them and a Stanley Cup repeat. The Blackhawks, you might remember, battled back from a 3-1 deficit to the Kings and lost in overtime in Game 7 of the Western Conference final. Read more

Final thoughts from the Stanley Cup final: It wasn’t even close

Kings celly

LOS ANGELES – Once again, the Stanley Cup final provided Eastern Conference teams a glimpse of what they’re up against when it comes to building legitimate Stanley Cup contenders. And once again, the Western Conference proved so superior that it’s almost as though teams in the east and west are playing in two different leagues.

Not only did a Western Conference team win the Stanley Cup for the sixth time in nine years since the 2004-05 lockout, it wasn’t even close. Don’t let the fact that three of the five games of the Stanley Cup final between the Los Angeles Kings and New York Rangers went to overtime fool you. Read more

Dear Gary Bettman: for the love of hockey, stop handing out the Stanley Cup

Gary Bettman (Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)

Imagine the scene: the Los Angeles Kings beat the New York Rangers this Friday in front of their home crowd to win their second Stanley Cup in franchise history and their second championship in the past three seasons. The cheering masses at Staples Center are delirious from the moment the final game buzzer sounds, but when the public address announcer informs fans it’s time for the Cup presentation ceremony, the roof just about blows off the joint – because, walking down a red carpet toward center ice to hand over the silver trophy, is hockey legend Wayne Gretzky.

Now, back to the reality of what will happen, either tonight in Game 4 in Manhattan or whenever the Kings do the expected and close out the Cup Final series: the awarding of the Cup will be drowned in boos from fans, because the awarder of the Cup remains Gary Bettman. The NHL commissioner attracts raspberries and catcalls the way beauty contestants attract sashes and perma-smiles, and the league’s continued insistence on him presenting the greatest trophy in sports only sullies what could be a picture-perfect moment.

This is why I’ve said for years now that the NHL should do away with this tradition and allow the championship-winning franchise to have a team icon – either a former Cup-winner, or someone who has been with the franchise through thick and thin – present the captain with the Cup. When alternative options are clearly an improvement on the current setup, there’s no valid excuse for continuing to send Bettman on the ice. Read more

Which team will be the next NHL dynasty, Los Angeles or Chicago? The race is on

Jonathan Toews

What makes a dynasty in today’s NHL?

It’s a conversation we’ve had more than a few times. What are the criteria to qualify as a dynasty in the modern, 30-team NHL? The days of winning three or four consecutive championships are long past. Heck, the Oilers never even won three in a row.

Of course, you still have to win the Stanley Cup to be considered a dynasty. The San Jose Sharks, who have eclipsed 100 points seven times in the past 10 seasons and qualified for three conference finals, are not even close. But at the same time, when you look at the elite teams of today, we have to do more than compare them to the legendary Edmonton Oilers or New York Islanders or Montreal Canadiens, because the definition of dynasty in sports has changed. Read more