Toews' deal brings in the big bucks

PAUL FRIESEN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:20 PM ET

Meet Winnipeg’s newest millionaire, a 21-year-old who still looks like he barely has to shave.

Jonathan Toews, the St. Vital product who’s turned big-league talent, an equal work ethic and a Tiger Woods-like intensity (no jokes, please) into a burgeoning NHL career, won the hockey lottery Thursday, signing a contract extension with the Chicago Blackhawks that will pay him $31.5 million over the next five years.

That’s about a 700% increase over his current salary, a paltry $850,000.

Toews signed along the gold-plated dotted line the same day as teammates Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith, a defenceman who also has Winnipeg roots.

Asked what’s going through his mind on such a momentous occasion, Toews was succinct.

“Don’t say anything stupid.”

This from a guy who was so excited he dropped an f-bomb on national TV after winning a World Junior Championship a few years back.

For the record, Toews didn’t let any expletives slip Thursday, so I guess you could say he’s learning.

Next up, learn how to deal with more money than he’s ever dreamed of.

It has to change his life, doesn’t it?

“Hopefully not too much,” Toews said. “It’s definitely an adjustment. Your rookie year, the lifestyle you get to live, the attention you get, the treatment from a lot of people, things change a lot when you turn pro. This is like another step.”

More like a leap.

“I’m still a kid just playing hockey,” he insisted. “I’m just enjoying the game and I want to win and I want to be as good as I can be as a player. So this, to me, right now, is not going to change anything.”

Other than the fact he doesn’t have to work another day in his life.

But Toews is driven, and won’t stop pushing that pedal to the floor until he’s accomplished the ultimate goal.

Upcoming Olympic Games aside, just for a moment, there’s some silver in his sights to go along with all that gold in his pockets: the Stanley Cup.

And his Hawks, 17-6-3 and leading their division, seem poised to make a serious run at it. Right now, and maybe for years to come.

That’s why Toews was so excited to sign a long-term deal the same day as two of his key teammates.

Kane’s deal is the same as Toews’, while Keith’s calls for a mind boggling $72 million over 13 years, the richest in franchise history.

The Big-Three help to pack them in at Chicago’s massive United Center every night. Hockey, barely on the radar just a few years ago, is back in a big way in a sports town like no other.

“I can’t think of any better place I could have been drafted to when I was 18 years old,” Toews said. “I never could have predicted the things that have happened in this city since then. The atmosphere we get to play in every single day is incredible.

“So I’m really happy about everything, and couldn’t be any luckier. If I compare myself to a lot of the kids playing hockey my age, no one’s been this lucky.”

Back home where it all began, the news of Toews’ contract was earth-shattering, to say the least.

“It’s pretty incredible stuff,” Jonathan’s dad, Bryan, said. “We knew Jonathan had some promise... but never thought he was going to see those numbers this quick. We know how hard he’s worked and how committed he’s been. To realize your dream is quite amazing.”

Back when Toews was 12, he promised his dad that, when he made it, he’d buy him a new truck.

So what’s next, his own island?

“For starters, I’d like to send my folks on a trip,” Toews said. “I know my mom’s never seen a palm tree in her life. So that’s one of my biggest priorities, is to send them somewhere nice.”

I hear Chicago is hopping these days.


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