Celebrating Mr. 1000: Hawks honor Toews with star-filled ceremony
We all know a picture is worth a thousand words.
But the one taken to commemorate Jonathan Toews' 1,000th game at the United Center on Sunday night was worth so much more.
After Toews and his family watched a stirring tribute video, a who's who of Blackhawks hockey sauntered onto the red carpet. The crowd applauded as Andrew Shaw, Brent Seabrook and Patrick Sharp approached Toews, then absolutely erupted when Marian Hossa stepped around the big 'C' on the ice and joined the party.
After Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat presented Toews with a Silver Stick, the group flashed million dollar smiles in a snapshot that's sure to be remembered for some time.
Corey Crawford and Adam Burish were also in attendance with Crawford receiving a rousing ovation while shown on the scoreboard in the first period.
Brandon Saad, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Dave Bolland, Kris Versteeg, Brandon Hagel, Marc-Andre Fleury, Andrew Ladd and others offered their congratulations via video.
Kudos to the Hawks for pulling off such a stirring celebration for the longest tenured captain in franchise history. And extra stick taps to Hossa and Seabrook for taking the time to make Toews' day extra special.
"I was pretty humbled and pretty touched with the recognition from my teammates in Sharpie and Hoss and Seabs and Shawzie showing up," Toews said after the Hawks lost 3-2 in overtime to Arizona. "I owe so much to those guys. I mean I feel embarrassed or even stupid in being recognized like that because we were all in it together and it's been a special ride.
"I'm just so thankful to be able to have shared it with guys like that."
While the last couple of years have been tough for Toews -- both on and off the ice -- it's important to remember how much he has meant to this franchise. Not every pro athlete can be Michael Jordan and retire after a championship while leaving fans drooling for more.
When Toews was drafted third overall by the Hawks in 2006 the team was the biggest joke in pro sports. Fans would walk up to the ticket office, pay $10 for a seat at the top of the 300 level and move down 15-20 rows in the first period.
Toews helped change all of that.
His tenacious play, slick moves and lethal shot were on display night after night after night.
A sea of red invaded the United Center again. Visiting teams hated playing there. When the Hawks had a lead going into the third period, the game was all but over -- locked down by Toews and his young, hungry teammates.
In no time at all the Hawks were contenders. Then champs.
There were parades -- three of them -- with millions of fans lining Chicago's streets.
Yes, those days are gone. It's been seven years since the last title. Five since the last true playoff berth.
While Toews' best days are behind him, he can still play. Is he worth $10.5 million right now? No.
But on the right team, in the right situation, he could easily be part of a winner again.
That kind of talk is for another day, though.
Sunday was about celebrating all that Toews has done for the Hawks and the city.
It was a day for memories. For reunions.
And for pictures worth a thousand -- no, a million -- words.