Hawk Talk: Winnipeg gives Toews a hero's welcome


Hawk Talk: Winnipeg gives Toews a hero's welcome

Sunday, July 11, 2010
7:51 PM

By Chris Boden

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.

PHOTOS: Blackhawks hit the road sporting Cubs attire

PHOTOS: Blackhawks hit the road sporting Cubs attire

The Blackhawks hit the road on Thursday, and they did so in style.

In support of the Cubs participating in the World Series for the first time since 1945, each member of the Blackhawks sported a Cubs jersey and World Series hat as they hopped onto the plane and traveled to New Jersey.

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It may not have been as whacky as Joe Maddon's themed road trips, but it's still a perfect excuse for breaking the dress code just this once.

Check out the photos below:

Together again: Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane reunite on top line vs. Devils

Together again: Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane reunite on top line vs. Devils

When coach Joel Quenneville has put Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane together it’s usually been during the postseason.

It’s rare when it happens in the regular season and when it does, it seems like an in-case-of-emergency move. But in this case, it may be more of a get-the-captain’s-production-going move.

The Blackhawks made a few more line changes on Thursday, including combining Toews and Kane, as they prepared for Friday night’s game at the New Jersey Devils. Marian Hossa moved to right wing on the second line with Artemi Panarin and Artem Anisimov. Marcus Kruger and Nick Schmaltz flip-flopped as third- and fourth-line centers. Tyler Motte and Ryan Hartman were the third-line wings while Dennis Rasmussen and Jordin Tootoo were on the fourth line.

Coach Joel Quenneville said the line changes, including Kane’s move to the first line, were because the Blackhawks continue to look for balance. To a point, that’s true; the Blackhawks still haven’t come close to getting that four-line rotation with which they’ve found so much success. But considering how successful the Toews and Kane combination has been for each, you’d have to think it’s to help bolster Toews’ point totals. Toews has just two assists through the first seven games.

“Right now I think Jonny, his production isn’t where you look at his play – we still always like the way he plays, he’s so useful in so any different ways,” Quenneville said. “I think maybe we get more balance on both lines. We’ve been trying a number of different looks in our top two groups there. over seven games we still need to be better in a lot of ways. hopefully we can find it.”

Still, if you can get your top players producing points, it’s worth a try. And Kane and Toews, regardless of how long they’ve been apart, usually click immediately upon reuniting.

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“Yeah, I guess change can be good in this sense. We can probably produce a little bit more offense and have the puck a little bit more throughout the game,” Kane said. “I’ve played with Jonny a bunch before. Obviously, not as much lately. But I’m looking forward to it. It’ll be a fun way to play hockey. Obviously he’s one of the best players in the game, and probably in my mind, the easiest player to play with. It’ll be fun to get back out there with him and try to create something, try to produce and have some fun with it.”

As for that usual second line of Panarin, Anisimov and Kane, remember: as we’ve seen before, it can be put together again fast.

“They get a lot of shifts and a lot of looks. It’s not like we’re too far away from going back to it at any time. It’s always close and available,” Quenneville said. “Maybe we get more balance and a little more scoring across the board.”


- Defenseman Gustav Forsling (upper body) did not skate on Thursday and will not travel to New Jersey. Quenneville is still hoping Forsling can play on Sunday vs. the Los Angeles Kings.

- Forward Andrew Desjardins (lower body) continues to improve. Quenneville said Desjardins could be skating in the next day or so.

- Corey Crawford will start vs. the Devils.