CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews has revealed that he is fighting symptoms of long COVID.
Toews is an elite professional athlete with three Stanley Cup trophies and two Olympic gold medals to his credit, but the 34-year-old cannot escape COVID.
The Blackhawks announced over the weekend he is going to be out indefinitely while he deals with the effects of long COVID.
"He's such a good dude. Everyone loves him," teammate Max Domi said. "I know he's gotta do what he can to get healthy. We support him. Hockey aside, we just want him to feel better."
Researchers say Toews is not unusual. Doctors at Northwestern University Medicine say there are some 30 million people suffering from long COVID symptoms on some level. It is the third most frequent neurological illness in the U.S.
"Some people tend to improve in a seesaw pattern," said Dr. Igor Koralnick at Northwestern University Medicine. "Some stay flat and unfortunately some get worse over time."
Toews missed the entire 2021 season due to chronic immune response syndrome. The captain has played much of this season, scoring 14 goals and 14 assists in 46 games. But he has been out since late January, and fans say they miss seeing him on the ice.
"It's a shame," fan Michelle Plucinski said. "It's devastating to see Toews out for the season possibly."
In the meantime, the team is hoping the time off will allow him to recover before the end of the season.
"He's the captain of the team. The team would love it," Blackhawks Coach Luke Richardson said. "It would be great for everyone to see him back. We're just hoping for that and supporting whatever way we can."
Doctors say they have studied patients with long COVID and most - about eight out of 10 - are young, healthy and never had severe symptoms initially.
"There are some people who feel they are 10-20% recovered after more than two and a half years," Dr. Koralnick said.
While Toews will be off the ice for the foreseeable future, there is a silver lining for fans: with the trade deadline coming up March 4, the team says he is off the market and he will remain a Blackhawk.