Saturday, July 10, 2010
By Chris Boden
WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- The story goes Jonathan Toews was gven his first pair of ice skates at age 3, and by age 4, he was putting them to use in a nearby lake - his first strides towards eventual Olympic Gold and the silver of Stanley's Cup 18 years later.
This Manitoba metropolis that emerges out of miles of flat grids of surrounding farmland has turned to the Blackhawks' captain as someone to cling to after losing its NHL franchise here 14 years ago. There may not be two million people at Sunday's parade here, but if the weather holds up, I'm told there could be more than 25,000 people lining the mile-plus route that finishes up at Dakota Community Center, where the native son cut his organized hockey teeth in the St.Vital neighborhood where he grew up. And not just people from this city among the masses, but many who'll get up early, drive a hundred miles or so, and pay tribute during 19's day with the Cup. It comes from Patrick Sharp's day in Thunder Bay Sunday, before it's off to British Columbia later in the week for Brouwer, Seabrook, and Keith.
This parade comes exactly one month after the one in Chicago. Before we hop on a bus for the ride, he'll officially be given his own lake named after him in the northern area of the province, and receive a special presentation at City Hall from Mayor Sam Katz.
A local columnist calls him "The Anti-Lebron." Let's hope Toews' situation never comes to that type of decision needing to be made (the last thing we need to hear as Stan Bowman tries to work the roster and the dollars available now like a wad of Silly Putty). But for a town that has to cheer on the Moose and Blue Bombers as their only major professional entries, it's no wonder Toews's return here for an exhibition September 22nd against Tampa Bay is already virtually sold-out.
For a town that once stole Bobby Hull away from the Hawks, Chicago appreciates the gift back, but will only let them borrow him for awhile this off-season. The Conn Smythe winner's back where his roots are.
Check back here on Sunday for updates on the Toews festvities as we join Jonathan and his family aboard the parade bus, plus more on SportsNite, at 6:30, 10 and midnight