Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews admits career may be winding down
Knowing his career may be winding down, Jonathan Toews is doing everything in his power to play in at least one of the Blackhawks' final games of the season.
Toews -- for the first time in exactly two months -- skated with his teammates Tuesday morning as they prepared to take on the Dallas Stars at the United Center.
A smile rarely left his face as he cleared pucks out of the net, practiced faceoffs, messed around with Seth Jones, and chatted up former teammate Max Domi, who is now on the Stars.
All of this is in stark contrast to how Toews has felt at times this season as he battles through illnesses.
If this was any other season, he likely would have shut himself down.
But it's not any other season. It may very well be the final one of the captain's illustrious 15-year career.
"Both if I'm being fully honest," Toews said when asked if he is contemplating not just his Blackhawks future but his pro future. "I've gotten to the point where my health is more important. ...
"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 is you're just pushing through pain, it's just like to what end?
"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."
Toews spoke for nearly 15 minutes by his locker stall. He was dripping with sweat after staying on the ice for extra workouts with Andreas Englund and Austin Wagner.
He approached the media horde with a wide smile and said, "Did you miss me?"
Toews was direct and honest during the wide-ranging interview and candidly revealed many of the struggles he's endured -- not only over the past few months -- but for much of the past two years.
Here were some of the eye-opening responses:
Q: As far as not recovering quickly, are you talking about fatigue? Or is it from dings you take in a game?
A: It's a lot of everything, really. But mostly, it's just the (chronic) immune response thing that they talk about -- just feeling completely inflamed. And your whole body, you just feel miserable across the board.
"Not to get into too many gory details, but I'll just leave it at that. It's not fun. And the mood is never great, either."
Q: What was the point when you went from slowly improving to slowly decreasing?
A: To be specific, probably the month of January. I don't know if it was (because) we were on the road a lot ... (but) it just got to the point where I couldn't move on the ice and didn't even want to put on my skates or roll out of bed to come to the rink.
"So it was pretty rough there for a bit. It probably took me a couple of weeks of ... trying to figure out what the right decision was; if I should keep trying to push through it, which really didn't feel like an option anymore. ... Or kind of pulling the plug in and trying to focus my energy on getting better.
Q: What has the support been like from the coaching staff?
A: They've been as supportive as you can ask for. At the same time, it's one of those things you can't really explain or people won't quite understand unless they've been through it themselves. ...
"It's not like a knee injury or shoulder injury where you lay under an MRI and your proof is right there. It's been kind of one of those complicated things. Even for me it's been really challenging at times to figure out what's going on. That's what it's come down to is not trying to figure it out -- like letting the process kind of unfold.
"The coaches have been great. Couldn't ask for more from the organization in that regard.
Q: Do you feel like it was the accumulation of the season that kind of hit you?
A: For sure. For sure. There's also just some things physically that need to actually heal and need some time and rest and just space without being on the clock constantly. Or even last year, when the season ends, your mind goes right to how much time can I take off and then how much time do I need to get ready for next season?
"So you're always constantly kind of in that swing of preparation and getting ready for the season or trying to survive during the season.
"It was good for me to just step aside and not have any timetable for a little bit.
Q: Is it important to return (to game action) and cherish these moment going into uncertain summer?
A: It's not easy to just get back in game conditioning on a whim, and we only have barely more than a handful of games left. ... 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.
"And so (it's) definitely very important for me to just go out there and enjoy the game and just kind of soak it in and just really appreciate everything I've been able to be a part of here in Chicago and show my appreciation to the fans as well."