Chicago has a crowded house of sports icons. Jonathan Toews deserves a place of his own.

As great as the Blackhawks star was with a stick in his hands, the hockey part doesn’t capture everything about him.

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Jonathan Toews waving to the United Center crowd on Thursday.

Jonathan Toews acknowledges the United Center crowd on Thursday after what likely was his last game as a Blackhawk.

Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Jonathan Toews likely played his final game with the Blackhawks on Thursday night, and it was only right that he gave an adoring United Center crowd one more goal and one more memory. He always recognized a moment, and he always gave fans everything he had, even when his fallible body threatened another work stoppage.

The Hawks have decided not to re-sign Toews, meaning the future Hall of Famer will have to decide if he wants to end his 15-year career or keep playing somewhere else.

And us? The people who have watched him with admiration all these years? What are we supposed to do with ourselves? We do what we always do when a superstar leaves the stage. We decide where he sits in the pantheon of Chicago sports icons. We do this to avoid getting mushy.

The symbol normally used for these kinds of discussions is Mount Rushmore. Because George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt have their faces carved into granite, it’s now compulsory that there be a Mount Rushmore of anything and everything — of sports, country music, comedy, “Survivor,’’ weed smoking, ZIP codes and, I don’t know, podiatry. I feel obligated to ask if Mount Rushmore would make the cut for the Mount Rushmore of mountains.

We in the media regularly use dynamite and jackhammers to create a stony monument to Chicago sports stars and, let’s be honest, to inflame fans. Nothing gets a certain type of true believer worked up quite like a debate over the relative merits of, say, Gale Sayers and Bobby Hull.

I’d like to argue that Toews deserves his own mountain, not because he’s unworthy of joining Michael Jordan, Walter Payton and Ernie Banks, and not because he’s better than anyone else in the annals of Chicago sports.

It’s because he stands alone.

He’s singular. He doesn’t fit neatly in a discussion of greatness because, as great as he was with a stick in his hands, the hockey part doesn’t capture everything about him. And if you’re not talking about Toews as an amalgam of qualities, you’re missing his essence.

Patrick Kane, his superstar sidekick, is a more skilled hockey player. There are plenty of Hawks fans who would put him on Chicago’s Mount Rushmore of athletes ahead of Toews. It would not be a bad vote.

But the Hawks made a 20-year-old Toews their captain in 2008 for a reason. They saw a drive in him that pulled teammates along, made them better than they might have been otherwise. The easiest thing in the world would have been for other players, especially much older ones, to resent the “C’’ being stitched on the sweater of someone who wasn’t old enough to drink alcohol legally. It’s the ultimate reflection on him that they didn’t.

Toews was a lot like Jordan in his will to win, but there’s a distinction. Teammates followed Toews because they wanted to win and because they didn’t want to let him down. Teammates followed Jordan because they wanted to win and because they didn’t want to feel his anger. Not exactly Captain Serious vs. Captain Queeg, but something like that.

When the Hawks were winning those three Stanley Cups in the 2010s, they had the ability to shift into a higher gear when they needed to. A lot of that was Toews, who, for all his fastidiousness about always doing things the right way, knew that some months were more important than others.

There was always a tug-of-war going on under the uniform. Everything about him spoke of a guy who didn’t like to speak, who would rather be hanging with his teammates than having to talk with the media. But dealing with reporters is part of being an NHL captain, and it wasn’t in Toews’ constitution to regularly shirk a responsibility. So talk he did, and well.

He never got in serious trouble off the ice. He battled chronic immune response syndrome and, more recently, long COVID. It would have been a tough slog for anyone but especially for someone used to everything in life going right. He experienced the high of being the third overall pick in the 2006 draft and the 2009-10 Conn Smythe Trophy winner, and the low of missing the 2020-21 season with the immune-system issue. He persevered.

All of it makes Toews unique. Some would respond that he’s unique like everybody else is unique. But the combination of physical ability, leadership, winning and maybe the curse of caring too much suggests that he should have his own place. Not that he would ever let on that he’s better than anyone. That would be un-Canadian and un-Toews.

A one-room mountaintop with a view. Sounds about right.

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