Toews-mania hits 'Peg

Chicago Blackhawks captain Johnathan Toews brings the Stanley Cup to the Dakota Community Centre,...

Chicago Blackhawks captain Johnathan Toews brings the Stanley Cup to the Dakota Community Centre, which was later re-named the Jonathan Toews Community Centre, in Winnipeg on Sunday, July 11, 2010. (MARCEL CRETAIN/QMI Agency)

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:15 AM ET

Winnipeg may not have won the Stanley Cup, but it sure seemed like it on Sunday.

Thousands of fans lined the streets of St. Vital as a parade featuring hometown hero Jonathan Toews and hockey’s holy grail wound its way to the Dakota Community Club.

Make that the Jonathan Toews Community Centre, as the facility where Toews cut his hockey teeth as a youngster has been officially renamed, much to the surprise of the star of the show.

“Wow — I don’t know what to say,” Toews said, standing on a stage before several thousand people in the facility’s parking lot. “This is amazing. This is the last thing I ever expected. To me this will always be Dakota Community Club, the place where I grew up. To win the Stanley Cup in a great city like Chicago is unbelievable. It’s even better to bring it back here and share it with you guys.”

The Blackhawks captain, 22, also brought the Conn Smythe Trophy, which he won as the most valuable player in the playoffs, just months after leading Canada to the gold medal at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

Everywhere you turned, people wore Toews jerseys in the crowd and along the parade route. Others wore homemade T-shirts or carried signs, many lining up in the sun for hours to get an autograph or a picture.

A sign held by one man may have said it all about Toews’ popularity. “Tazer, Will You Marry My Wife?” it read.

“It’s absolutely unbelievable,” Toews told the crowd. “I didn’t expect all you guys to come. This is amazing. Thank you so much for coming.”

At one point, Mayor Sam Katz’s speech was interrupted by someone yelling, “Jonathan for mayor!”

“If they’re taking odds in Vegas, he would win,” Katz acknowledged. “But I think you’d have to take a real big pay cut, Jonathan.”

Stanley Cup tradition allows every player on the winning team to have the Cup for a day. But as captain, Toews was to lug the silver mug around Winnipeg for two days.

A Sunday night dinner party with his family was to be followed by a larger gathering of some 250 people from the St. Vital hockey community, back at the community centre — paid for by Toews.

Monday, Toews was expected to take the Cup to several spots with friends.

But Sunday was all about sharing it with the city that’s embraced one of the top all-around players to come out of Manitoba in years.

Toews’ dream year included leading Team Canada in scoring at the Olympics, and being named the tournament’s top forward.

“It probably started with the Team Canada gold medal,” St. Vital resident Bonnie Beckman said of Toews-mania. “And I think all of Winnipeg was cheering for Chicago this year in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.”

Beckman says there’s only one thing that would top Sunday’s celebration.

“Ideally, if he was playing for the Jets, this would be a way better situation,” she said. “We can all dream. That would be the ultimate.”

Earlier, after being honoured before a crowd of several hundred at the courtyard outside City Hall, Toews said Winnipeg’s hockey-mad fans deserve to have an NHL team again.

“I’ve got it pretty good in Chicago,” Toews said. “Everyone always says, ‘Are you going to ask for a trade if a team comes back to Winnipeg?’ So I can’t comment on that, yet. But it would be very exciting to come back here and play the old Jets, for sure.”

Toews received the Key to the City and a gold medallion from Katz, as well as a pair of moccasins and an aboriginal ribbon shirt, in Hawks colours, from Grand Chief Ron Evans.

The day began with a reception at the Legislature, Premier Greg Selinger officially renaming a lake north of Flin Flon Toews Lake.


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