Most NHL players see the summer as a break from the grind, a chance to unwind after a gruelling season.
Jonathan Toews sees things a little differently these days.
The captain of the Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks, and leading scorer for Olympic champion Team Canada, says the return to training camp and the approaching season is a welcome break from the grind he went through this summer.
“It was nonstop,” Toews, whose Hawks play Tampa Bay in a pre-season game here, tonight, told the Winnipeg Sun from Chicago, Tuesday. “It seems like since the day we won there was absolutely no down time. It was crazy from the get-go with the attention and it never, ever stopped.
“I’m really looking forward to the season, just so I can get back into my routine and have the same life again that I had before.”
The life of a hockey player. The life Toews dreamed about when he was a kid playing hockey in his St. Vital back yard.
Oh, he dreamed of hoisting that sparkling Cup, too. And of wearing Olympic gold around his neck.
He just didn’t know sharing the experience would be almost as draining as the accomplishment itself.
No, nothing Toews did or read prepared him for the aftermath of hockey’s ultimate double-whammy.
“Your time is always someone else’s time,” Toews explained. “The commitments you have to make, golf tournaments, charities, appearances — all that picks up to a whole new level that you would never know if you didn’t win a Stanley Cup and Olympic medal in the same year.
“It was tiring. But I’m just looking forward to enjoying the small things in life. I’m eager to start the season so I can hide out again, spend time with my family and my teammates and really be a little more selfish for once.”
Jonathan Toews, selfish — who knew?
The consummate team-oriented superstar was obviously stretched thinner than a skate edge over a summer that included a Cup parade and rally attended by thousands at his old stomping grounds.
Which raises the obvious question about whether he and the retooled Hawks will suffer from the dreaded Cup hangover.
That’s where Toews stopped the conversation dead in its tracks.
Suggest he might now understand why some teams fall flat in their title defence, and you may as well have stolen his last puck on that outdoor rink in south Winnipeg.
“No,” the 22-year-old shot back. “We know there will be challenges this year. But I’m not going to start the season making excuses. That’s not the way you want to think at all.”
No wonder Toews was the third-youngest player in NHL history to be named team captain. He might be one of those who’s never satisfied.
Rest on his laurels? Forget it. He’d shape them into pucks and use them for shooting practice, if he could. The guy isn’t even taking a pre-season game in his home town lightly.
Responsible for some 30 tickets in what’s expected to be a near full house, Captain Blackhawk isn’t out to soak up adulation in a token appearance — although it will be nice to play his first competitive hockey game at home since he was 15.
Toews’ presence, along with that of Winnipeg-born defenceman Duncan Keith, clearly makes Chicago the home team, even if it’s officially the Lightning.
“I’m very excited,” Toews said. “It’s been a while. I want to impress. I’m sure there will be a lot of people wearing the Hawk out there and a lot of hometown support pulling for the Winnipeg boys.
“I want to play well, and not disappoint too much.”
People will be watching, after all. Yes, it’s good to be home.
But it’s better to be back in hockey season.
Where people like Jonathan Toews go to get away from it all.