Hawk Talk: Winnipeg gives Toews a hero's welcome

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Hawk Talk: Winnipeg gives Toews a hero's welcome

Sunday, July 11, 2010
7:51 PM

By Chris Boden
CSNChicago.com

WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- The worst thing about the day was we weren't on the bus with Jonathan Toews during his parade route. The fact there was no bus made it more acceptable.

A late change in plans put the captain in his own convertible, sitting on top of the back seat with the Stanley Cup on one side and the Conn Smythe Trophy on the other. And the man looked as happy and relaxed as I've ever seen him, so it was worth the personal sacrifice and disappointment. We would've loved to talk to him as his fellow natives showered love upon him during the route, but we'd probably talked to him enough anyway, and we'd get him again afterwards. Let JT enjoy!

And the humble 22-year-old was even more humbled when the city renamed the Dakota Community Center in his name. 17 years ago, his parents got him started in organized hockey in that very building - and there are photos there to prove it, if not at age 5, then shortly thereafter. Now the thousands of kids who cheered him on and chanted his name all day Sunday can walk into the same buillding with the same dreams, named after their hero. There was truly a look of shock and disbelief on his face when Mayor Sam Katz removed a sheet covering the placard with the logo of the renamed rink.

Monday, Toews has his own golf tournament for a children's cause and makes a children's hospital visit. He said he had 4-5 days of fishing last week on a lake where Mike Richards lives, and caught some grief from Flyers fans. But he says a little more R-and-R, then he starts gradually working back into hockey shape. It'll be an especially short summer vacation, and between being Cup champs and the roster changes, the 2010-11 season will be his toughest.

As I wrote earlier, people had some fun with Toews earlier in the day when it was revealed where Toews Lake would be. Even Jonathan admittd he'd never fished as far north as a 12-hour car ride from Winnipeg. And no one's sure how many - if any - roads lead to it. I guess a private plane or helicopter's in order for that Conn Smythe bonus. But Premier Greg Selinger - who made the call on his own with no apparent objections - thought the hometown boy, his accomplishments, and they way he goes about his life was well worth it. Lakes are usually named only for this province's casualties of war, or descendants of the Queen.

Speaking of which, my hustling cameraman Dave covered Queen Elizabeth II's visit here last weekend. He claims the turnout to see your Hawks captain was comparable to that of the 84-year-old British monarch.

Betcha this one was a bit more rowdy.

Panarin’s rep: 'He’ll forever cherish his time in Chicago'

Panarin’s rep: 'He’ll forever cherish his time in Chicago'

A little more than two years ago Artemi Panarin had many NHL teams vying for his services, the Blackhawks winning the bidding war and signing him. On Friday the Panarin-Blackhawks union was over, the 25-year-old traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

But according to his agent, if Panarin had it to do all over again, he still would have signed with the Blackhawks.

Dan Milstein, who represents Panarin, said the Russian left wing is forever grateful to the Blackhawks for the past two seasons in which he put up stellar numbers in consecutive regular seasons.

“The experience, playing on the same line with [Artem] Anisimov and [Patrick] Kane, having coach [Joel] Quenneville and many other members of the organization help him along the way, providing the translation services and being there for him, the entire process made his transition to North America extremely easy,” Milstein said. “He’ll forever cherish his time in Chicago.”

Milstein was in Chicago on Friday morning when he got the call from Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman on the trade – Bowman told the media on Friday that the deal “came together pretty quickly.” Milstein immediately called Panarin, who was about to get on a plane for a fishing trip in Russia.

“Initially he was shocked. But as the day went on we kept in touch and he understands,” Milstein said. “He said, ‘I understand it’s a business. I accept the challenge.’ His last words were, ‘I accept the challenge.’”

The deal, which sent Panarin and his upcoming two-year deal worth $6 million per season to Columbus, brought Brandon Saad back to Chicago. Saad will likely bring stability to the Blackhawks’ top line, which has missed his presence since he was traded in the summer of 2015. Who Kane’s left wing will be this season remains to be seen. Quenneville said on Saturday that Nick Schmaltz will probably get a good chance there; he played with Kane when Anisimov was hurt last season.

Still, the chemistry between Kane and Panarin will be tough to match. Milstein said he saw Kane briefly at the NHL Draft on Friday night, and that he told Milstein, “just let [Panarin] know that I love him.”

Panarin, like most of the Blackhawks, had a very quiet postseason. After recording seven points against the St. Louis Blues, Panarin had just one assist in four games against the Nashville Predators. Not long after the playoffs Panarin was interviewed in Russian. One of the quotes, translated into English, read, “I was not in the best shape and didn’t have enough strength” for the playoffs. Milstein didn’t believe that was an accurate translation.

“If you know Panarin, in his native tongue he’s very funny. If you use a translator, sometimes it takes things out of context. But I don’t believe that’s what he meant,” Milstein said. “He put a good [regular] season together, a fair season, but the performance in the playoffs, obviously, he was disappointed. He was frustrated with his performance.”

Milstein said Panarin will probably head to Columbus in a few weeks; he’s currently waiting on visa issues. Panarin’s time in Chicago was shorter than most thought it would be but his agent said he’s ready for the next challenge.

“Artemi is looking forward to coming here,” said Milstein, who was in Columbus on Monday. “This will be a good opportunity to shine.”

Blackhawks ink Anton Forsberg, Tomas Jurco

Blackhawks ink Anton Forsberg, Tomas Jurco

When the Blackhawks traded to get Brandon Saad back, they also acquired Anton Forsberg, who they believe is ready to be their latest backup goaltender. On Monday they signed him to a two-year deal.

The Blackhawks inked two players on Monday, Forsberg, whose contract runs through the 2018-19 season, and Tomas Jurco, who agreed to a one-year contract extension.

Forsberg joins the Blackhawks having very little NHL experience – he’s played 10 career games at this level, going 1-8-0. But the Blackhawks’ previous two backup goaltenders, Antti Raanta and Scott Darling, hadn’t made an NHL appearance before joining the Blackhawks. Forsberg led the Cleveland Monsters, the Columbus Blue Jackets’ AHL-affiliate team, to a Calder Cup title in 2016; during that run he went 9-0 with a 1.34 goals-against average and .949 save percentage.

On Friday, when the Blackhawks acquired Saad and Forsberg from Columbus for Artemi Panarin and Tyler Motte, general manager Stan Bowman said the team is, “optimistic about Anton’s potential.”

“We like his profile as a goalie,” he said. “He’s a big guy, takes up a lot of net, has that mobility and makes good positional saves as well as athletic saves. A year ago, led his team to the [Calder] Cup championships, so he knows what it’s like to put a team on his back. It was the AHL but he’s had a lot of success there. He’s earned the right to be an NHL goalie.”

Jurco, acquired by the Blackhawks from Detroit in February, played 13 games with them down the regular-season stretch. Bowman said shortly after the trade that Jurco would get a chance here.

“We’ll be patient with him but we really think there’s a good fit there, looking at his skills and the style of hockey we play,” he said. “I think a lot of ways, sometimes guys need different opportunities. It doesn’t work out in every place. A fresh start will be great for Tomas.”