Jonathan Toews optimistic Blackhawks hockey will return, even while NHL waits in limbo

“I’ve been getting back and riding the bike and thinking, ‘Hey, at some point, this has to wrap up,’ ’’ Toews said on a video conference call Tuesday.

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Less than a week after he skated around Detroit’s Sam Gagner, Jonathan Toews saw the Blackhawks’ season halted abruptly.

Duane Burleson/AP

Less than three weeks after the NHL season paused indefinitely, the days already are running together for Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews.

In a video conference call Tuesday with fellow Central Division captains Alex Pietrangelo (Blues) and Roman Josi (Predators), Toews ended the Hawks’ coronavirus quarantine silence by reflecting on the sudden stoppage, his lifestyle since and his outlook on what lies ahead.

Except he already had forgotten the Hawks’ final opponent — the Sharks — before the stoppage. And, apparently, the days of the week. The Hawks and Sharks played Wednesday, March 11.

‘‘We basically woke up in the morning Friday,’’ Toews said. ‘‘We played Thursday night — I forget who we even played at home — but they said, ‘Don’t come in to the rink,’ and the season turned on a dime just like that.’’

To be fair, for the last three weeks, Toews has lived a lifestyle unfamiliar to him in prior Marches.

He has been cooped up with his girlfriend and their Yorkshire terrier, binge-watching ‘‘Ozark’’ and relaxing to ‘‘deep house’’ music.

He has tried to keep the Hawks’ meme-laden group chat under control, even as one of the relatively few players riding out the pandemic in Chicago. (In related news Tuesday, the NHL extended the self-isolation period for players to April 15.)

‘‘I didn’t have that motivation to do much the first four or five days,’’ Toews said. ‘‘Since then, I’ve been getting back and riding the bike and thinking: ‘Hey, at some point, this has to wrap up. We’ve got to go back to our normal lives.’

‘‘Just not sure when that is, so hopefully it’s sooner rather than later.’’


Toews joined Tuesday’s video conference call from his kitchen.

Ben Pope/Chicago Sun-Times

Toews said he has watched news broadcasts and listened to Joe Rogan podcasts to educate himself about the pandemic. He also has taken advantage of the free time to attend to some previously neglected responsibilities.

‘‘I moved into a new place during the season this year, and . . . during the year, you put a lot on the back burner with how busy the schedule was,’’ he said. ‘‘Just catching up, calling some friends, little things I don’t have time to do when we’re in season.’’

Toews also has had plenty of time to watch old hockey highlights and reflect about the gradual transformation of the league and the sport. That nostalgia led to a fascinating conversation with Pietrangelo and Josi when the moderator on the call temporarily lost his connection.

‘‘I’ve definitely had the time to sit back and watch these guys in the playoffs and the runs they’ve been on the last two years while I’m just sitting at home in April, May, June,’’ Toews said. ‘‘But the last time we won [the Stanley Cup] in 2015, Tampa was that first example of where the game was headed. They had smaller [defensemen] and forwards that could skate, and it wasn’t as physical of a series as we had against Anaheim in the conference final.

‘‘That’s where the game has really gone nowadays. Every team can really skate. They’ve got forwards and D-men on all four lines that can fly. I’ve just been watching some of those games and seeing how it compares to the playoff games in ’15 and ’13 and all those years.’’

That insight was particularly interesting when paired with some comments he made about the Hawks earlier in the call. That included mentioning how the injuries to veterans this season were counterbalanced by the growth of the rookies.

‘‘We showed a lot of signs this year, even if we weren’t sitting in a playoff spot right now, that we’re right on the edge,’’ Toews said.

For now, however, all he can do is wait to see whether the Hawks’ next chance to hop over that edge comes later this spring or next season.

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