The Journal Gazette
Friday, September 24, 2021 1:00 am


Toews back as Hawks open camp

JAY COHEN | Associated Press

CHICAGO – Jonathan Toews is skating again. He is practicing with the Chicago Blackhawks, just like he did before he missed all of last season. He is smiling and joking around with his teammates again.

The rest of the questions, the ones about opening night and returning to form and his fitness, those are going to have to hang out there for a while.

All Toews knows right now is the moment.

And right now, he is playing again.

“It feels really good to be back,” a smiling Toews said.

The new-look Blackhawks opened training camp Thursday with their captain back on the ice, to go along with a 100% vaccination rate against COVID-19. The 33-year-old Toews skated with a group that included longtime teammate Patrick Kane, the last remaining players from a run of three Stanley Cup titles in six seasons.

It was the latest step in a recovery process that has been going on for a while – Toews has been participating in informal sessions at the team's practice facility – but one that meant something to the forward and the players who know what he went through in the past year.

“I think he looks good,” Kane said. “It's great to have him back, obviously. The biggest thing is you want him to be himself, right? He's such a big part of this organization, a big part of this team for such a long time.”

In late December, right before the start of the pandemic-shortened season, the Blackhawks announced Toews would miss the start of training camp because of an illness that included symptoms that left him feeling “drained and lethargic.”

What followed were months of mostly silence on Toews before he announced in June that he had been suffering from what he described as chronic immune response syndrome. He said Thursday he also had an antibody test that showed he had COVID-19 at one point.

“I think we all have habits and routines in our day that we just kind of rely on to find some sense of normalcy and consistency in our lives and when none of that was there, you kind of feel like you're in outer space a little bit sometimes,” Toews said.

The return of Toews could provide a big lift for Chicago after an active offseason that included the acquisitions of defenseman Seth Jones and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.

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