Now that we know tonight will be your last game as a Chicago Blackhawk, I wanted to share a note.
If it wasn’t for you, I probably wouldn’t be doing the job I’m doing now. If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t have half of my happy Chicago sports memories. For that, thanks.
It’s funny, your career has run parallel to the best parts of my life, which I don’t think is a coincidence. My daughter was born right after Big Buff’s OT winner during Game 3 vs San Jose. She was there (asleep) for the banner raising, and she enjoyed reading to her beloved Toews doll before bed.
She’s nearly 13 now. She looks like an adult, and as I look at your career as a parallel to your career, it’s making me feel old. I remember those pictures from your rookie year, and I used to think, “I wonder what Toews will look like when he’s an old NHL veteran,” just as I used to look at my daughter and wonder, “What is she going to look like when she’s older?”
I still remember your first NHL game. You scored on your first NHL shot and we all knew you were going to be special.
Four games later, you scored the most incredible goal of your career.
Avalanche analyst Peter McNab summed the goal up beautifully. “This is the kind of talent that can bring a franchise back from the dead.”
“He’s 19 years old,” then head coach Denis Savard said. “But don’t let that fool you. There’s no big step from the University of North Dakota to the NHL for this kid. He’s 19, but he already displays all of the cool and experience of a 30-year-old veteran. He’s definitely captain material.”
Savard was on to something.
Now and forever, you’re “The Captain.” One of the game’s all-time great Captains, despite a misstep here or there.
It’s hard to imagine what you’ve been through over the last few years. Long COVID, chronic immune response syndrome, your body betraying your mind and desire to keep playing the game you love. But you have nothing more to prove. You’ve won everything there is to win. Whatever happens from today forward, you will be a Chicago legend.
When things were going so great during the 2010s, it felt like it was never going to end. The team seemed invincible. You guys didn’t lose … you just ran out of time. Even as the wins began to dwindle, we still had our highlight moments from you, Patrick Kane, Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith. It was easy to feel connected to those days, and it still is. I think that’s why there are a lot of Hawks fans imagining a return for you and Kane this summer.
Selfishly, I don’t want you to play for another organization. If there’s one member of the dynasty Blackhawks who should only play for one franchise, it’s you. The fact that you may not be able to go out on your own terms is unfair, though. Regardless of what you decide, you will always be a Blackhawk. I can’t wait to see No. 19 up in the rafters with Nos. 1, 3, 9, 18, 21, 35 and 81.
With more to follow, of course …
It’s already strange to see a Blackhawks game without No. 88. I can’t imagine what it will be like to see this next generation grow without you. Your name is synonymous with the Blackhawks, with Chicago and with winning and leadership. Whatever you decide, Chicago has your back forever.
Thank you for your dedication. Thank you for giving everything you had every shift. Thank you for giving more than you had over the last few years.
Thanks for Everything,