This is the second in a four-part series as Blackhawks Insider Tracey Myers explores what it means to wear the 'C' in the NHL. Take a look behind the scenes with unique perspective from players, coaches, historians and much more.
Brenden Morrow tried to find the right word to describe Jonathan Toews, his fellow gold medal-winning Team Canada teammate from the 2010 Winter Olympics.
“He’s just very intense,” said Morrow, former Dallas Stars captain who’s currently playing for the St. Louis Blues. “He’s just very intense and serious when it comes to performing.”
There’s that word again: serious.
“I was trying to think of a different word to label him with,” Morrow said with a grin. “But it’s not serious in a not-ever-having-fun sense. There are so many types of things you have to do, and your mind has to be in a certain frame to perform, and he gets in there.”
Toews has worn the “C” for the Blackhawks since he was 20. Now 25, he’s earned respect around the league for his heart and dedication to the game. And wearing that “C,” and all the responsibilities and pressures that come with it, means a lot to him.
“For sure,” Toews said. “I’m surrounded by a great team and a great group of guys. Being the captain, having the “C” on your sweater, there’s a lot of responsibility. You get a lot of credit when the team’s doing well. When the team’s not doing so well, you have to be willing to accept that responsibility, your fair share of the game when you don’t win games.”
Toews has exuded a wise-beyond-his-years personality for some time, be it in front of the media or his teammates. And his fellow players say he’s grown into the captaincy well.
“Just from that first year to the year we won…he was just a lot more comfortable with his role and his teammates and just being himself,” said former teammate Andrew Ladd, a captain himself with the Winnipeg Jets. “When you first get the captaincy, you put a lot of pressure on yourself to try to do everything. After a while, you learn to be yourself, worry about yourself, and everyone will follow.”
When the Blackhawks were on the verge of winning their second Stanley Cup in the past four seasons in June, Toews went to the most veteran players on the team, telling them they’d be among the first to hoist the Cup. Jamal Mayers, who got the Cup third after the Blackhawks’ victory in Game 6, said Toews just has a pulse on things like that.
“He has that encompassing perspective of the whole picture,” Mayers said. “Usually it takes you until your 30s to get that. That doesn’t mean guys aren’t team guys; but most guys in their 20s are more concerned with themselves and their own game. But he has an uncanny ability, even over the last two years, to see the whole picture. That’s very rare and to me, that’s what separates him: he knows the value of every piece of that team and has a pulse on everything.”
Coach Joel Quenneville said Toews has adapted into the role well.
“Every year, I think he’s more aware,” he said. “There’s an education process that goes on, growing up as a young man. But when we came in here six years ago, we said, ‘Don’t change anything, just play hockey and all that other stuff will follow.’ That’s the best way to go about his business.”
Shane Doan, captain of the Phoenix Coyotes, has loved Toews’ competitiveness since he met him, when Toews was a teenager.
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“He gets me into more trouble. And at the same time it’s the thing I enjoy the most is his being competitive,” Doan said. “I know when you play him he’s going to be combative, he’ll do what he can to win. As a captain, you want that from a guy: willing to do whatever it takes to make sure his team wins, and he does that. His approach to the game is so great. He’s one of the most guys I admire for the way he approaches it, he plays and his determination and will to win.”
Toews still has many years left in his career and his captaincy. He already has one Selke Trophy and two Stanley Cups, and the potential to win more hardware, individual or team, is there. Intense and serious: they’re synonymous with Toews’ approach in hockey and with the captaincy.
“I’m just trying to be myself and grow as a player and captain every single day,” he said. “I don’t take it less serious now than the first time I wore the “C.” It’s something I’m proud about and try to do the right way.”
Coming Tuesday: What kind of person does it take to lead their teammates on and off the ice?