All the hard work - every grueling practice and training session - it was all worth it, the captain said. The atmosphere surrounding his last game was proof.
"It's a reminder, like I said, that it's all worth the sacrifice ... when you experience that with your teammates, there's nothing better," he said.
Toews scored in a rousing end to his memorable run in Chicago, but Ivan Provorov beat Alex Stalock 3:09 into overtime to lift the Philadelphia Flyers to a 5-4 victory Thursday night in the season finale for each team.
Toews won three Stanley Cup titles in 15 seasons with Chicago, but general manager Kyle Davidson announced earlier in the day that the team would not re-sign the veteran center. Toews turns 35 on April 29, and the lowly Blackhawks are rebuilding.
"There's absolutely no hard feelings," he said. "I have nothing but love and gratitude for the Blackhawks."
Toews had a chance to win the game in overtime, but he was denied by Felix Sandstrom on a breakaway with about 2:15 remaining. Provorov then closed it out with his sixth goal of the season.
"Nice to finish with a win," Flyers forward James van Riemsdyk said. "Now you start to think about what's next. It's been some trying times as far as winning games, but the guys stuck together."
Toews' last game with Chicago (26-49-7) added some electricity to a matchup of teams long eliminated from the playoff race. And Philadelphia (31-38-13) played up to the challenge, earning a second straight win behind two goals and an assist from Travis Konecny.
When it was over, Toews and the Blackhawks took to the ice, and the team played a video honoring the center for his time with the franchise. Toews patted his heart and waved to the crowd of 20,219 - many dressed in various Toews jerseys - amid chants of "Jonny! Jonny!"
"I don't think the final score really followed them into the dressing room," Chicago coach Luke Richardson said. "I think the atmosphere did, and it was a special night."
Toews was showered with cheers all game long, especially when he redirected an Andreas Athanasiou pass for a power-play goal 7:40 into the second period.
It was Toews' first goal since Jan. 28 and No. 15 on the season. He has 372 goals and 511 assists in 1,067 regular-season games - all with Chicago.
Toews could decide to retire after missing a chunk of this season with what he described as symptoms of long COVID-19 and chronic immune response syndrome. But he said he hasn't made a final decision just yet.
"The thought of playing for another team right now is so far in the back of my mind right now, especially after that moment," Toews said. "I always thought I'd retire a Blackhawk and part of me still believes in that, so we'll see."
Philadelphia had a 4-3 lead for much of the third period, but Tyler Johnson found Athanasiou in front with 2 minutes left. It was Athanasiou's 20th goal of the season.
It also was the last game for Flyers defenseman Justin Braun after 13 NHL seasons.
"Emotional," Braun said. "It didn't really hit me until Provi scored. But that's it. It's a tough day, but it was a great run."
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