Last week, Jonathan Toews collected his 800th career NHL point, in his hometown of Winnipeg. Coincidence? Potentially. Grand design? Absolutely.
Considering the fact that the now 31-year-old, 13-year NHL veteran first learned to skate on the ponds of Winnipeg’s south St. Vital neighbourhood, throwing his hands up in the air on a Sunday evening in Manitoba’s capital is nothing new for the greatest captain in Chicago Blackhawks’ history.
Now ranked sixth all-time in Hawks’ scoring history behind Stan Mikita (1,467 points), Bobby Hull (1,153 points), Denis Savard (1,096 points), Patrick Kane (1,004 points) and Steve Larmer (923 points) the 169th player to ever hit 800 points is in fairly decent company.
‘Coming back home’, per say, has been nothing out of the ordinary for Toews, as his team also plays out of the same Central Division in which the Winnipeg Jets reside. Taking on Winnipeg in town for back-to-back Sunday evening games, however, that’s the rarity.
Unfortunately for Toews, his team dropped the opening contest 5-2, after jumping out to a quick 2-0 lead. It took just 15 seconds for the former Shattuck-Saint Mary’s alum to earn his 800th point, assisting on a Dominik Kubalik tally just 15 seconds into the game on February 9.
“That’s a nice stepping stone, nice to get a big number like that here in my hometown of Winnipeg, but unfortunately, we couldn’t get the two points,” Toews said with his typical negative undertone. “We were looking the first shift of the game. I thought it was going to be one of those nights but I think they bounced back and obviously played their best late in the game.”
Nicknamed ‘Captain Serious’ for obvious reasons, Toews has since gone on to prove his wealth and then some, cashing in as a five-time NHL All-Star, a Conn Smythe playoff MVP, a Selke Trophy winner, a Mark Messier Leadership Award winner and ultimately a three-time Stanley Cup champion.
Leading the Blackhawks to three Cups in six years is a feat that no other league captain can claim. Despite providing miraculous shootout goals in past World Junior Hockey Championships, Toews will certainly continue to be remembered most for his contributions leading up to, during and now after Chicago’s dynasty. Although battling with the Los Angeles Kings’ duelling dynasty (2012, 2014), many argue that Toews could have even had a fourth or fifth Stanley Cup to his name, should a few bounces have gone the other way in either of those neighbouring seasons.
Revealed in 2017 as one of the NHL’s Top-100 players of all-time, Toews – the two-time World Junior Hockey Championship gold medalist – has also won Olympic gold, serving as an alternate captain to Sidney Crosby at the 2010 and 2014 Winter Olympics.
On Sunday, Toews became the fourth player from the 2006 draft class to earn 800 points, following Nicklas Backstrom, Phil Kessel and Claude Giroux. His career-best 35 goals, 46 assists and 81 points in 2018-19 came on a ‘down year’ for the Hawks.
Just one week prior to Toews’ record-setting night, fellow Winnipegger Alexander Steen suited up at Bell MTS Place for his 1,000th career NHL contest. Although given a much better reception by the hometown fans than Toews (after scoring his milestone point against the home team), Steen continues to be in the conversation for the ‘top NHL player to come out of Winnipeg’.
With respect to Steen and his 620 career points, Patrick Sharp and his 620 career points, Billy Mosienko and his record-setting hat trick, Ab McDonald and his Winnipeg Jets connection, James Patrick and his illustrious career, the battle truly comes down to Toews and Andy Bathgate, who skated in 1,069 NHL games, while putting up 349 goals and 973 points over the course of his 17-year, multi-team career from 1952 trough 1971.
Delivering much more than his goal-scoring and point collecting talents, Toews has been able to regenerate hockey in Chicago, following a period of time in which being a Blackhawks fan in Illinois was difficult. The deadly duo of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane have inspired today’s youth in the areas of leadership and elite skill, respectively.
Whether he finishes his career as the NHL’s all-time best player from Winnipeg, or not, the book is not yet closed on a marvellous career from one of Manitoba’s absolute best hockey minds. What started with a 98-goal, 193-point, 48-game bantam AAA campaign with the Winnipeg Warriors in 2002-03, has turned into a prosperous NCAA career, an international love story and ultimately, a three-time Stanley Cup parade planner.
Toews will take on his hometown Jets Sunday evening in a Central Division matchup at 7:30 PM central from Bell MTS Place. The game can be viewed live on TSN.