Toews dares to dream big

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:28 PM ET

I’m guessing Jonathan Toews has always dreamed big.

So it comes as no surprise the pride of St. Vital has allowed himself to envision what has to be the ultimate for anyone who’s ever gripped a hockey stick: Olympic gold and Stanley Cup silver — in the same year.

“You’re not afraid to dream about it,” Toews told the Sun from Chicago, Wednesday. “I’m not looking to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, yet. But I realize I have a chance to do something special.”

Again.

It seems Toews and the words “something special” are forever colliding. And he always walks away smiling.

With his 22nd birthday still two weeks away, Toews is already the first Canadian to win World Junior gold and World Championship gold in the same year.

He’s also the third-youngest person to be named an NHL captain and is coming off an Olympic tournament, his first, in which he was named the best forward and led Team Canada in scoring.

Less than two months later, he’s gearing up to lead the Blackhawks to their first Stanley Cup in 49 years.

With the Hawks finishing third overall and a trip to last year’s conference final having whet their appetites, you can only imagine the fever pitch of Chicago sports fans going into their team’s playoff opener against Nashville, Friday.

“Obviously, every sports fan in Chicago is hungry for a team that can win a championship,” Toews said. “For those who maybe don’t follow us or follow hockey every day, everyone is just expecting us to make it to the final. Anything less is a disappointment.”

That’s where the captain, or Mr. Serious, as teammates call him, comes in.

Much like Team Canada couldn’t simply show up in Vancouver and expect to waltz to gold, the Hawks can’t look past the Predators, and Game 1.

Or they’re doomed to the same pit the San Jose Sharks fall into every spring.

“We have some pretty levelheaded guys in the locker room,” Toews said. “We keep tabs on each other. Whether it’s myself or the assistant captains, it doesn’t really matter who’s saying it.”

I’m thinking what Toews tells his teammates these days is worth its weight in gold.

If he didn’t have the respect of everyone in that Chicago room before, he does now. A 25-goal, 68-point season is one thing. Leading the best players in the world is another, entirely.

Unlike some players, Toews didn’t seem to experience an Olympic hangover, although the Hawks, collectively, had their wings clipped in the weeks following the Games.

Lately, though, they’ve been soaring again, and go into the playoffs on a high.

“We’re as confident as ever right now,” Toews said. “We’re where we need to be.”

If they could make the conference final with that bright-eyed and bushy-tailed outfit of a year ago, what or who is to stop them this time?

“We have that experience now, and everyone said that was our only real knock last year, was our lack of experience,” Toews said. “We’ve grown. We’re not as young and wide-eyed as we were before.”

You’re tempted to say the same thing about Toews, himself.

But then you realize he never plays like the wide-eyed kid who’s out of his element, not in his first World Junior, his first World Championship or as an Olympic rookie.

No, the bigger the stage, the bigger his game, it seems.

Acknowledging those NHL regular season games in March didn’t quite get the juices flowing like the Games in February, Toews says he’s getting that centre-stage feeling again.

“This weekend will definitely feel like we’re back under that microscope,” he said. “It’ll be fun to play with that motivation again.”

Not to mention the dream of all dreams floating around in his head.


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