I’m going to tell you a story:
The Winnipeg Junior Jets AAA summer team has just won the Sask-Can hockey tournament and the team, coached by Tom Zajac (father to Devils’ forward Travis) is celebrating on the ice. The team is captained by Jonathan Toews, a ten year old boy who did not spend one minute in the hotel swimming pool or eating pizza this entire trip. A boy whose intense stare during games, mixed with his relentless drive was enough to scare some of his teammates. This win will end up being a microscopic footnote on the list of his accomplishments.
As the boys congratulate each other and accept their medals, Jonathan takes note of a player on his team standing off to the side. The player was arguably one of the worst players on the team and had barely seen a shift the entire game. Toews could see that the player was feeling uneasy about taking his medal, even though he is smiling and congratulating the rest of his teammates. Jonathan can see that the player is questioning himself and his contributions to the win. Toews stops what he is doing and decides to approach the player.
We have all heard the stories of the backyard rink created behind the Toews’ residence in the community of St. Vital located in the south end of Winnipeg. People are well aware that he turned down the Tri-City Americans, after they drafted him first overall in the 2003 WHL Bantam Draft to pursue an NCAA career. What fans may not know is how he graduated from the hockey power plant Shattuck St. Mary’s to attend the University of North Dakota and play for the Fighting Sioux. Since the age of eight, nothing has been more evident than his drive and mentality to be the best.
As he moved onto the NCAA and began wowing the country with his dynamic play, people that did not know him began to see what everyone in Winnipeg had been witnessing since day one. Hockey Canada took notice naming him to the World Juniors Team as did the Chicago Blackhawks , drafting him 3rd overall in 2006. Jonathan’s three goal shootout performance at the 2007 World Juniors was so crucial when it came to the team winning the Gold medal in the finals. I’m a firm believer that he should be in the Hockey Hall of Fame for that alone.
The global hockey world had become well aware of Toews and by the end of his rookie year with the Blackhawks he was already turning heads with his poise, drive and attention to detail. Jonathan would go onto be named the captain of the Blackhawks the following year, quickly earning the nickname “Captain Serious” for his mentality and professionalism. He would lead them deep into the playoffs before losing to the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference Final. Most players would have looked back at the year as a success, but that was not the case for Jonathan. Toews wanted the Stanley Cup and nothing less would be acceptable.
The following year Jonathan and his Chicago Blackhawks would win the Stanley Cup, with Toews being awarded the Conn Smythe. He would also win an Olympic Gold Medal with Canada at the 2010 Vancouver games. Three years later, he would again lead his team to another Stanley Cup Championship. To date, Toews has racked up 479 points in 528 regular season games with another 81 points in 94 career playoff games.
How do I know that there will never be another Jonathan Toews? How do I know Jonathan is one of a kind? You can take his Gold Medals away. You can take his Stanley Cup rings away. It all goes back to the rink in Saskatoon when he was ten years old. He was so mature, aware and sensitive to his teammates around him, that he approached the worst player on the team after a win. This player had played the least and felt undeserving of the tournament medal. Jonathan skated over and said, “I want you to know, you deserve a medal just as much as everyone else”. How do I know he said that? I know because that player was me.
Former CJAHL hockey player turned coach, turned scout.