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Q&A with Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews

Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews has a birthday approaching.


He'll turn 27 on April 29. He is no longer a youngster, but he certainly doesn't fall into the "old" category yet, either.


After already winning two Stanley Cups, a Selke Trophy and a Conn Smythe Trophy, and building a reputation as one of the game's premier two-way forwards in the first eight years of his career, he is driven to achieve even more in the next stage. He recently talked with ESPN.com about his career, hockey in his hometown of Winnipeg, playing alongside Marian Hossa, being tied to Patrick Kane and more.


POWERS: You probably weren't rooting for the Winnipeg Jets, but has it been fun for you to see the people of Winnipeg getting to enjoy winning NHL hockey again?


TOEWS: It's good for hockey. Obviously I'm from Winnipeg, so I have friends and family, and it's exciting for them to be part of the energy in that city when the Jets do well. But I think at the end of the day, you want to see teams in good markets like that succeed, people who love hockey and follow the sport, whether the team is doing well or not. I think it's good for the game. It's good for the NHL. Obviously, great situation for them.


POWERS: Most players would do anything for two Stanley Cups. Would you be disappointed if you ended up with just two at this point of your career?


TOEWS: Well, I don't look that far ahead. You take it one step at a time. I don't think when I came into the league that I would ever thought I'd have a chance to win two so quick and be part of a special group like this, but opportunities come your way. Especially this group of guys have been here for a while, they're not the type to want to pass up those opportunities and just say, 'Ah, well, get them next time.' I think we embrace every challenge, and we never say never. I think every season presents new challenges in different ways, but I think that's the exciting part. Next week we get to start a new chapter, and it all starts over again.



POWERS: You have spent the most time on the ice with Marian Hossa during the past four years. What has that meant to you and your game?


TOEWS: Everyone, I guess, talks about me being one of the best two-way forwards, being nominated for the Selke a couple times. I always say I got to definitely give a lot of credit, thanks to Hossa's play. Maybe it's just because I'm in the middle. I think he's usually the first guy back backchecking. If I'm the first guy, he's pretty close behind, usually passing me on the way back. His work ethic both ways makes him such an easy player to play with on both sides of the puck. I think when you get a chance to play with some other players, obviously there's some good things to that, but you realize how much he means to the line. I think it's not necessarily something you take for granted after a while, but it's something you kind of get used to.


POWERS: Your natural reaction is often to defer to others when mentioned as one of the top two-way players, but do you take any pride in that recognition?


TOEWS: I guess so. I mean I just think it's an honor to be talked about amongst those other players like [Anze] Kopitar and [Patrice] Bergeron, guys like that. Even Pavel Datsyuk, which I don't even think I'm in the same realm of skill level as a guy like that. I think it's just a testament to those guys, what they mean to their team and how hard they play. Obviously it's an honor to be mentioned along with them every once in a while.


POWERS: Other Chicago athletes have been asked about it, and you are pretty much a Chicagoan now. Has the gun violence in Chicago affected you in any personal way being part of the city now?


TOEWS: I guess when you live in a city for a certain amount of time and you're away from home, you get to know more and more about the culture and what goes on, even more of the history of the city. It is difficult to understand kind of the main cause of it and get into it because I'll start rambling on and on. I think when you live downtown, you live on the North Side, you realize there's some pretty awful things going on not far from you, so it's tough to imagine. Sometimes when it's out of sight, it's out of mind, but you're reminded when you turn on the news that there are some people that are fighting out there, who aren't living peaceful lives. It's tough to think about that sometimes, I guess.


POWERS: Getting your contract extension done last summer means you don't have to worry about it this offseason. Has that allowed you to be more comfortable this season not having to be concerned about your future?


TOEWS: Yeah, I guess in one way if Kaneand I hadn't signed yet, people would be asking us about it constantly. They were, immediately after the season last year. So, to get it done right away was great in that regards. It wasn't something we had to continue to talk about all the time. I'm excited to be a part of this team going forward for a long time. I think that's a huge benefit.


POWERS: It's so rare for two star players like you and Kane to be tied together in one organization for such a long period of time. Has that ever been strange for you to be so closely tied to him the first half of your career and for likely at least eight more years?


TOEWS: I don't know. I guess it just kind of happened. You can't really orchestrate anything like that. We're both prepared and ready to play. Our rookie years, we were given the opportunities, we came in and we seized it. We were part of a growing, young group of skilled top-end talent, guys like [Brent] Seabrook, [Patrick] Sharp and [Duncan] Keith. We grew into that group, and we were able to succeed individually, but also be a big part of our team success, too. I think things like that you just kind of let them sort out.

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