By Jeff Hamilton
Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews can finally stop crossing off the days on his calendar. The 25-year-old returns to his hometown of Winnipeg Saturday afternoon for his first regular season game against the team he grew up watching.
“Obviously it will be an emotional game,” said Toews to a group of reporters before the game. “It will be a game that I’ll try to elevate my game a little bit as opposed to maybe any other game but it’s just fun.”
Toews grew up in Winnipeg before heading south to pursue his hockey career and although Chicago is his new home, there’s a special place in his heart for a city he first honed his skills in.
“Kind of weird being back here during the season,” Toews said. “It took long enough. Soon enough it will become a normal thing but I’ll definitely enjoy the first one.”
Toews said his experience has already been a special one. He spent last night having dinner with family and friends and he hopes to make an impression on the sold-out crowd at the MTS Centre.
“You want to play well and make the most of your first time back,” he said.
“Its exciting. I think it just brings it all back, just to be back here and kind of think about where I grew up and all the rinks I grew up playing hockey at. Now that there’s an NHL Team back here and to be playing at this level in my hometown is very special for me.”
Toews hasn’t seen much of the Jets, having only played them once since arriving in Winnipeg from Atlanta. But that’s all changed with Winnipeg now in the Central Division, right there with the Blackhawks.
“Every time we play a division team, regardless of it being a new team like the Jets that we’ve never saw before you definitely keep track of it,” he said. “This is a team we’ll keep tabs on and we know its big points in the game tonight.
Toews said he doesn’t know what to expect from a loud MTS Centre crowd know for heckling visiting teams, but he’s excited to find out.
“Hopefully at least it’s a mixed bag,” said Toews. “We’ll see, I’m not too sure what to expect there whether it’s me or another player on our team I think it ill be exciting to see that anyways.”
So what would make for the perfect day back home?
“First and foremost we want to get a win and I think it would be nice to chip in on a little bit of the offence and just see a great game back and forth and we’re expecting the atmosphere to be great. I think not only the Jets but the Jets fans are probably looking forward to this game as well. Just want to get off to a great start today.”