Jonathan Toews returns to Blackhawks practice, says he could soon play his last games in Chicago
CHICAGO (CBS) -- Two months after health problems forced him off the ice, Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews returned to practice with his teammates on Tuesday, and reflected on his future, including the possibility his career might soon come to an end.
Until Tuesday, Toews hadn't skated with the team since their Jan. 28 game against the Edmonton Oilers. The team placed him on injured reserve on Feb. 19 as he continued to deal with symptoms of long COVID-19 and chronic immune response syndrome.
It's unclear when he will play his next game, but he acknowledged Tuesday that this could be not only his final season with the Blackhawks, but in the NHL altogether. His contract with Chicago expires at the end of the season. With the team in the midst of a major rebuild, it's unlikely Toews will resign with the team even if he continues to play in the NHL.
"It's definitely special for me, regardless of what happens in the future this summer. It's definitely on my mind that this could be my last few weeks here in Chicago as a Blackhawk," he said. "It's definitely very important for me to just go up there and just enjoy the game, and just kind of soak it in. … I just really appreciate everything I've been able to be part of here in Chicago, and show my appreciation to the fans as well."
Toews, 34, helped lead the Blackhawks to three Stanley Cup championships in six years from 2010 through 2015, but the team hasn't made it past the first round of the playoffs since their last title, and has missed the playoffs altogether five of the past seven years, including this season, when they've already been eliminated from postseason contention.
During their run of Stanley Cup titles, Toews was one of the best two-way forwards in the league, winning the Selke Trophy in 2013 as the league's best defensive forward, and the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2010 as the most valuable player of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
He ranks 5th in franchise history in games played, 6th in career goals, 8th in career assists, 6th in career points, 7th in career power play goals, 8th in career short-handed goals, and 3rd in career game-winning goals.
But Toews has struggled in recent years, in large part due to his health, which caused him to miss the entire 2020-21 season with symptoms of Chronic Immune Response Syndrome, which caused his immune system to overreact to any form of stress.
While he seemed to be bouncing back this year, his health problems returned in January.
Toews said, after shutting himself down in January, he considered sitting out the rest of the season, but ultimately decided to try to rejoin the team for their final stretch.
"I made the decision to pull myself out, and put myself first to try and take care of my body, and do what's right for myself, and that wasn't an easy decision, obviously," he said. "But having said that, it's kind of getting down to it where these last few games, and like I just mentioned, the thought kind of crosses your mind that this could be it for me in Chicago. So, yeah, it's definitely important for me to try and go out there and really soak that in, and enjoy it, and like I said show my appreciation for the fans as well."
Toews said with the combination of his health struggles and his Blackhawks contract expiring at the end of the season, he's considered possibly playing for another team or calling it a career altogether.
"Both (are possible) if I'm being fully honest," Toews said. "I feel like I've said it already that I've gotten to a point where my health is more important."
Toews said he hasn't been happy with his performance when he's been on the ice in the last few years, but "I feel like I have much more to give with my experience in the game, and knowing how to play the game."
"But, when day after day it's just you're just pushing through pain, it's just like, to what end?" he added. "I think when you're young, and you're playing for a Stanley Cup, and everyone's playing through something, that means something and it's worthwhile; but I'm at that point where it feels like more damage is being done than is a good thing."
For now, Toews said he's taking it day by day.
The Blackhawks have eight games left, four of them at home.
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