'Tower' standing tall

PAUL FRIESEN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:25 AM ET

He was a finalist for the rookie-of-the-year award last season, has scored some of the NHL's most jaw-dropping goals and is a team captain.

But it seems there are still people around the league who don't know how to pronounce Jonathan Toews' last name.

Take the public address announcer in Detroit Saturday night, whose pre-game introduction sounded more like Jonathan Tower, according to those who heard it.

"I'm surprised there's still people getting it wrong," Toews was saying yesterday.

Don't worry, those days are numbered.

After a slow start that everybody, except Toews, blamed on either the sophomore jinx or his being named one of the youngest captains in NHL history, the 20-year-old St. Vital product is like winter in Winnipeg -- back with a vengeance.

'NOT IN DREAMLAND'

With four goals, six points, in his last three games -- boosting his season totals to eight goals, 22 points in 25 games -- the Blackhawks' captain was named the NHL's second star for last week.

That's a far cry from his 12-game goalless drought to start the season, when a few people may have forgotten his name, let alone mispronounced it.

But Toews fought through the slump just like he fought through a bad cough during an NHL-sponsored conference call yesterday.

Looking back at the wreckage, he sees someone who, coming off a dream rookie season, may have come back to earth in Year 2.

"Now that reality sinks in, you're not in dreamland anymore," Toews said. "You've got to earn every point and every chance. It's not easy. There was kind of a hurdle I had to jump there. I think finally I'm through that tough spot."

Let's face it, the expectations on Toews were enormous. It is, after all, the City of Big Shoulders.

Coming off a near Calder Trophy-winning season, Toews, still baby-faced as a newly minted teenager, was anointed the team spokesman.

Toews has always downplayed the extra pressure that came with the 'C.'

Unless you count the through-the-roof expectations he placed on himself, that is.

Call it a brief dose of the sophomore slump, if you want.

Toews just hopes it's history.

"I didn't want to believe in that," he said. "I just believe it's a mental thing a player goes through. And sometimes other people convince him that's what he's going through.

"I maybe put a little too much pressure on myself. Now I'm starting to think the game a little bit more, and sitting back and just let the play happen in front of me, instead of trying to control everything and be everywhere at once. I was trying maybe a bit too hard early in the season."

Just let it happen.

Even his latest highlight-reel goal, Saturday night in Detroit, when he undressed the defender and the goalie, just kind of happened, Toews said.

"After you put the puck in the net, I couldn't even believe it went in. You don't think about it."

WINTER CLASSIC

But he is thinking about the NHL's annual Winter Classic, the outdoor game this time slated for Chicago's Wrigley Field, New Year's Day.

"That would be an understatement," Toews said. "We've been hearing about it everywhere we go in this city since the summer. It kind of goes along with the whole hype of how the 'Hawks are back in this city, and hockey's back.

"Obviously, I was a pretty lucky kid on draft day to go to Chicago. I never imagined my first few years in the league would be this exciting, and this historical, I guess. This has been a struggling franchise and now we've been making headlines across the league."

At least his name's being spelled right.

Soon, everybody will be able to say it, too.


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