Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews says he's still dealing with long COVID
The mystery surrounding Jonathan Toews' illness finally ended Sunday afternoon when the Blackhawks captain released a statement saying he is dealing with long COVID and Chronic Immune Response Syndrome.
"It has been really challenging to play through these symptoms," Toews said in a statement. "In the last few weeks, it has reached the point where I had no choice but to step back and concentrate on getting healthy.
"I am thankful for the patience and support of my teammates, the coaching staff, and the entire Blackhawks organization."
Toews missed the Hawks' victory at Calgary on Jan. 26 with what was deemed to be a non-COVID illness, but he returned two nights later to face Edmonton.
Players then went their separate ways for the all-star break and when the Hawks returned to practice Feb. 5, the team released a statement saying Toews was again out with a non-COVID illness. He then missed the next six games.
Toews, who has 14 goals and 14 assists in 46 games, was skating last week in an effort to return, but has now chosen to shut things down indefinitely.
"We know that this has been a really difficult period for him," GM Kyle Davidson said. "(We) support him in whatever he needs to make sure he's feeling good and feeling strong. The hope is he can still play some games down the stretch."
This diagnosis all but takes Toews off the trade market. The hope now, obviously, is he makes a full and complete recovery and that these symptoms don't crop up again.
Toews, who missed the 2020-21 campaign with what he said was long COVID and CIRS, had a career low in goals (12) and assists (25) in 2021-22.
"It was a grind," he told me about six weeks ago.
This season, Toews exploded out of the gates with 8 goals and 5 assists while averaging nearly 17.5 minutes of ice time in the first 19 games. His ice time actually went up in his last 27 games, but he managed just 6 goals and 9 assists.
"He was just at times ... feeling some fatigue and soreness and battling through it at the beginning of the year," coach Luke Richardson said. "It just got to the point where he felt like it was too much and affecting him physically."
Toews missed one other game due to illness this season -- at New Jersey on Dec. 6. It was a late decision by the team to scratch Toews and one he wasn't particularly pleased with.
"He was not happy with me," Richardson said. "He's a competitor and he (was) not happy with us. That's why it's taken this long for him, struggling with trying to figure out why he's not feeling the way he wants to feel.
"I think it was just affecting him, not just on the ice but probably just personally. He's at a point where he's just trying to figure out what can help him get better."
With the March 3 trade deadline looming, the Hawks must go forward without their captain.
"He's such a fixture and such an important figure within the room," Davidson said. "It's not great. You never want to have someone like that out.
"We miss him and hopefully we can get him back soon."