Jonathan Toews ready to see ‘where life takes’ him as he moves on from Blackhawks

Even before his conversation with Kyle Davidson, Toews felt in his heart that the time had come to move on, he admitted after his sendoff Thursday night. But what he’s moving on to remains undetermined.

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Jonathan Toews smiles.

Jonathan Toews was embarrassed by but appreciative of his raucous Blackhawks sendoff Thursday.

Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Deep within his heart, Jonathan Toews said Thursday, he knew the right moment had come for him to move on from the Blackhawks.

That feeling arrived well before general manager Kyle Davidson told him last weekend in Seattle the Hawks wouldn’t re-sign him — a conversation that caught him by surprise but ultimately didn’t anger him.

“I knew that for myself personally, whatever happens this summer, it’s time,” Toews said. “Once I took a deep breath and let it sink in, I realized it’s just what it is. There’s absolutely no hard feelings. I have nothing but love and gratitude for the Blackhawks.”

That feeling has surely been difficult for Toews to acknowledge and accept.

Although the past few years of constant losing have clearly weighed on him, creating friction with his ultra-competitive mentality, his defiance and endless belief seemed to veil that reality from his consciousness. In the end, he finally realized it.

“If I look back over the last 16 years, it’s all a blur — it has gone by so fast,” he said. “These last couple years were probably the most challenging for myself personally. But I’ve learned more about myself in these last couple years than I have in my whole career.”

He had one more challenge left Thursday: to embrace the constant attention and applause of 20,219 devoted fans at his Hawks sendoff.

It’s funny that a man of his fame could be so uncomfortable with attention, but that’s quintessential Toews. After the postgame tribute, Ian Mitchell had to literally push him to start his final farewell lap around the rink. Toews later said he felt “almost unworthy” of the moment, which brought the United Center to arguably its highest decibel levels since the 2016 playoffs.

“It’s a weird thing,” he said. “It’s almost hard to accept that love and that praise. So I tried my best to just soak it in. The guys were telling me I should do one more lap. I was like, ‘That was one too many already right there.’ It was pretty cool, [but] it was overwhelming.”

So, with all that said, what will happen this summer?

Toews laughed when bluntly asked if he has decided whether or not to retire: “I have not, officially,” he said, chuckling at his own indecision.

Nonetheless, he sounded very much as if he’s leaning toward retirement but simply wants to take some time to think it through thoroughly — and maybe test how his body responds to offseason training.

“The thought of playing for another team right now is so far in the back of my mind right now, especially after that moment,” he said. “I always thought I’d retire a Blackhawk, and part of me still believes in that. So we’ll see.”

Toews also laughed, this time due to bewilderment, when asked if he thinks he would be better suited for coaching or a front-office position once he does retire.

For him to eventually choose either career path wouldn’t be surprising, but in the meantime, the idea of relaxing and being more present for life’s other pleasures sounds most appealing of all.

“If I’m not playing hockey this time next year, it’s exciting to think about all the parts of life you’ve put on the back burner,” he said. “I mean, I’m not getting any younger. There’s a lot of things that you have to sacrifice over the years to be able to reap the benefits of having success at this level. So it would be nice to spend time with family and friends, too, and just be able to put people first once in a while.

“It’d be nice to just let your guard down and just see where life takes you.”

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