There has been a lot of talk this season about how the Blackhawks have benefitted from their first long summer since the 2012 lockout, but you can forgive Jonathan Toews if he’s not exactly feeling super spry these days.
Thanks to the World Cup of Hockey, Toews has been on the ice since August, and while he missed 10 games with a back injury, only three teams in the NHL have played more games than the Hawks. It has been a breakneck pace all season — a game pretty much every other day — thanks to the World Cup and the new five-day bye weeks.
Three days off right about now would come in handy. Instead, Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith and Corey Crawford will fly to Los Angeles on Friday morning for three days of events, interviews and public-relations work — oh, and Saturday’s skills competition and Sunday’s three-on-three tournament.
It’s a blessing to be an All-Star. It’s also kind of a burden.
“It’s always an honor; everyone wants to represent their team, they want to be one of those guys,” Toews said. “But there’s no doubt, especially with the amount of hockey we’ve been playing, that it’s nice to get a break just like everyone else in the league. You use that break down the road, just to keep the body fresh, keep your mind fresh and be able to stay on top of your game. It’s a huge thing. . . . It’s not necessarily the All-Star Game so much that I think guys mind; there’s a lot of extracurricular stuff. Guys are pretty much busy all day for three days, [and] that kind of wears you down a little bit.”
The Hawks’ bye week — which conveniently comes right after six consecutive road games out of the All-Star break — should help offset things. The All-Star break usually sees players scatter to the winds for a weekend somewhere warm. But this year, most of the Hawks are sticking around Chicago and saving their vacation for the bye week.
But for those not going to Los Angeles, it’ll still be a welcome few days off the ice. Having the bye week so soon after the All-Star break could prove particularly beneficial for the handful of Hawks rookies who are dealing with the full-season NHL grind for the first time. A little time off might help them hop that rookie wall.
“It’s a pretty condensed schedule this year; there’s a lot of games in a short period of time,” Ryan Hartman said. “These couple of days are going to be nice — almost like a reset button for the body to let some bumps and bruises heal.”
As for the Hawks’ four All-Stars, they’ll have their hands full all weekend. Toews, Kane and possibly Keith (along with a number of retired Hawks legends) are expected to be part of the Friday night event unveiling the league’s top 100 players of all time. Then Saturday is a day full of press and the skills competition, and Sunday is the game itself before they fly off to San Jose for Tuesday’s first game out of the break.
No rest for the weary. But, hey, at least it’ll be 70 degrees and sunny outside while the league puts them through their paces.
“It’s always fun to mix with the players,” Toews said. “There are guys around the league that you have met or you know in one way or another. I think this weekend in L.A., there’s going to be a lot of hype, a lot of excitement around it, especially with the 100 players that’ll be named and some of the celebrity hockey fans that are going to partake in some of the events, too. So it’ll be a lot of fun.”
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