Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews reportedly was one of the two reps who voted against the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement extension and Return to Play plan this summer.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported on his podcast last week — comments that came to light Wednesday — that Toews and Hurricanes representative Jordan Martinook were the two ‘‘no’’ votes in the NHL Players’ Association’s 29-2 approval.
Update, July 23: A day after Friedman’s report surfaced, Jonathan Toews said Thursday he actually “voted yes” on the RTP plan. Details here.
Toews also reportedly took an active, critical role in negotiations and discussions with the NHL when the plan was being ironed out.
“I have been told by many, many, many players that one of the most vocal players during the process of coming back to play was Jonathan Toews, that he asked a lot of questions,” Friedman said. “They said he was great. He asked relevant questions; he challenged whether or not this was really safe to play. They said that when you talk about star players standing up for other people, he did that.
“A couple of guys told me at times they thought Toews was a real pain in the butt for some of the people at the NHLPA, but it was from a place that had good intentions.”
The NHLPA nonetheless officially approved the CBA extension and RTP plan July 10. The CBA extension will last through 2026; the RTP plan is already in Phase 3 and will enter Phase 4 shortly, with teams traveling to their hub cities Sunday, then the playoffs beginning Aug. 1.
Friedman’s report stands in stark contrast to Toews’ comments about the coronavirus after the Hawks’ first training-camp practice that stirred controversy and some condemnation.
“You’re going to find all sorts of different attitudes as far as the bubble,” Toews said last week. “Part of me just says being away from people and isolating ourselves isn’t really the answer.”
Toews then expanded on his thoughts a few minutes later in the interview.
“Does anybody really know how and when people catch this thing?” he said. “The best you can do is get good rest, eat healthy, take care of your body, do the little things that lower your chances. What else can you do?
“Sitting around and worrying about it is just going to drive you crazy. The NHL’s gone to great lengths to create a safe environment. It’s far from perfect, but everyone has their own beliefs in seeing where they stand with all this.”
Toews has not been among the handful of players selected by Hawks spokespeople to talk after any of the practices — the current media-access policy during Phase 3 — since then.
Friedman speculated later in his podcast that Toews was trying to leave his own opinion out of his comments on COVID-19 and its relationship with the NHL but ended up saying some things that didn’t come across the way he intended.
The issue is essentially behind Toews now, though. Of greater concern is his absence from practice Tuesday after missing the second half of practice Monday.
Coach Jeremy Colliton said Monday that he was just trying to keep Toews “fresh,” but then he said Tuesday that Toews, 32, fell under the new “unfit to participate” term.
The Hawks didn’t practice Wednesday, but they’ll return to Fifth Third Arena on Thursday for their last four practices before departing for Edmonton.