PHILADELPHIA -- It was last August 7 when agent Pat Brisson was out in Halifax, Nova Scotia, celebrating a certain Pittsburgh captain's first Stanley Cup. He was sharing some of the moments, the details and stories from that glorious day with Jonathan Toews, another one of his clients. The Chicago captain texted him a promise: "Next year, you'll be in Winnipeg with me."
Call it foresight or divine prophesy, but when the 22-year-old Toews saw his agent from the ice after lifting the sacred Stanley Cup on Wednesday night, he winked and mouthed, "Remember?"
The last few days have been tortuous for the young Blackhawks leader, who had about as stellar a season as a hockey player could ask for. He lost sleep as he obsessed about the possibility of achieving that childhood dream. But now, after a 4-3 win (RECAP | BOXSCORE) over the Flyers, he can rest easy. He has delivered. Big time. Now, to his Olympic gold medal, which he won with Canada in February, Toews adds a Cup and a Conn Smythe Trophy to his glittering resume.
He didn't earn the playoff MVP by lighting up the scoreboard with flashy goals in the final; that, it seems, he left to Patrick Kane, Chicago's other blessed forward who scored the overtime Cup-winner. No, Toews did it the way he would, as the hard-working player who never took a shift off, who won 65.1 percent of his draws, who did the grunt work of grinding along the boards to keep play alive, and collecting three assists in the process.
As he would, of course, Toews demurred about the honor. "There were so many guys on this team that deserved to win [the Conn Smythe] trophy," he said, basking in the celebratory light of the Wachovia Center. "But really, no one was worried about that one. It's the big silver one that we were after."
And the Blackhawks probably wouldn't have even gotten to this point without the leadership of a young man whose demeanor and game are well beyond his years. Even though he was limited to just three assists in the six-game final series, Toews was the engine of the Blackhawks' run. In the early rounds, he rode a 13-game point streak, a Chicago record, through the conference finals, where Chicago dispelled the Sharks in four games, and he finished the playoffs as the team's leading scorer with 29 points, tying DenisSavard's franchise record from 1985. As the second youngest captain to lift the Stanley Cup, Toews led this team with the quiet confidence of an all-time great.
"He's the man," Kane says. "He's going to be a special hockey player. He's going to go down as one of the best all time." It's high praise coming from the other cornerstone of the Blackhawks franchise. Together, Kane and Toews, who entered the league three years ago, have revived this moribund franchise to its pinnacle, and while Kane offers the highlight-reel goals, Toews is the heart that front offices build teams around.
"There's not enough good things you can say about those two guys," says winger Kris Versteeg. "They brought a championship to the city in three years, when people never thought it'd be possible."
Gazing up in the middle of the ice in between question and answer sessions, Toews can't be sure he isn't dreaming. "It's the best feeling in the world right now," he says. "I could stay out here all night. I don't even want to take the equipment off because I want this moment to last forever."
The moment, of course, will not. But the memory surely will.