By Chris Emma–
CHICAGO (CBS) — Moments after NHL commissioner Gary Bettman declared the Blackhawks a dynasty on Monday night after Chicago won its third Stanley Cup in six years, he called upon the leader of this remarkable run.
Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews bolted over to the commissioner’s podium like he was on a rush into the offensive zone and put his hands on the Stanley Cup. He smiled for three seconds of photos, then those 34 and a half pounds of glory were all his.
“F—ing right, boys!” he yelled to his teammates waiting off to the side.
That Captain Serious scowl was replaced with an unmistakable smile, one that certainly won’t be leaving his face during yet another summer with Stanley. The Blackhawks’ tireless leader, the engine behind their constant resolve, Toews only seems to let his guard down when their one goal has been achieved.
Once again, the Blackhawks are Stanley Cup champions and the toast of the town.
But gone is the novelty of Chicago’s hockey revival — the story of their 2010 title — replaced instead by the demands to win every season. This is enforced by Toews, the 27-year-old who has already hoisted the Cup three times and donned Olympic gold twice. The winning, demanding culture of this Blackhawks organization wouldn’t exist without its leader.
With that “C” on Toews’ chest comes the responsibility to bring out the best of his Blackhawks, and there’s not a better guy to carry such an honor.
“He’s truly a leader,” Blackhawks winger Marian Hossa said. “He was born like that.”
The Blackhawks’ Cup chase of 2010 was a fun, feel-good story of a young group winning with pure talent. In 2013, the maturation manifested in another title, though this one not nearly as surprising. But this 2015 banner to be hung above the United Center is the testament to the lasting legacy of this core, namely its leader.
Make no mistake, Toews has cemented his place as the best player in hockey. Combine pure talent and skill with the invaluable leadership factor, and you have a special player. The tremendous play of Toews in a third Cup run — he had 10 goals and 11 assists in 23 postseason games — only further solidifies his hockey greatness.
“We wanted it,” Toews said. “We wanted it for each other, for the city.”
Chicago can’t repay Toews enough, for the Winnipeg native has become one of the city’s move beloved figures. You can put Toews on the same Mount Rushmore as Michael Jordan, Walter Payton and other Chicago greats to be debated in the bar room, because three championships in six years are remarkable, especially given that this modern, salary cap era NHL attempts to prevent such a dynasty.
And who’s to say there won’t be more championships in years to come?
Everybody who watches the Blackhawks sees Toews and his immense skill, but few see what makes him such a tremendous leader.
As the Blackhawks skated the United Center ice and celebrated their latest title Monday night, Toews shared a moment with each individual teammate. He had a hug for Kris Versteeg and expressed his gratitude to trade deadline acquisition Antoine Vermette. While the party raged on in the dressing room — a private team setting lasting past 4 a.m. — Toews took time to thank team personnel, even leaving the room to show his appreciation for the security staff waiting outside.
There have been countless great athletes but few possess the leadership qualities of Toews, who has the accolades to go with it, too.
With victory on the Blackhawks’ side and the Stanley Cup ready for a summer of celebrations, Toews can show his lighter side. But Captain Serious will soon be back with a vengeance.
Toews has more to accomplish in his extraordinary legacy.
Follow Chris on Twitter @CEmma670.