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On Thursday night, Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews will play in his 1,000th NHL game as member of the Blackhawks. He’ll be the eighth player in franchise history to reach the mark all with the Blackhawks and joins longtime teammates Duncan Keith (1,192), Brent Seabrook (1,114), and Patrick Kane (1,092) to join the 1K club.
After missing all of the 2020-21 season due to Chronic Immune Response Syndrome, Toews’ future physically seemed in question and it is a testament to his recovery, which is still ongoing, to have reached the 1,000-game marker this season. If not for that missed season, Toews would likely have already surpassed Bob Murray (1,008) and Eric Nesterenko (1,013) for seventh and sixth on the all-time franchise list. But Toews, who sits with 999 games heading into Thursday night’s contest against the Florida Panthers, will have to play the remaining 15 games this season to surpass those two.
The next on the list after Murray and Nesterenko for Toews to surpass is Bobby Hull (1,036). Unless some major movement happens this offseason with Chicago’s longest-serving captain, he’ll likely surpass Hull for fifth all-time sometime around American Thanksgiving.
Following Monday’s loss to the Buffalo Sabres, Toews’ 999th career game and one where he scored a “vintage” Jonathan Toews-like goal, the soon-to-be 34-year-old captain reflected on his upcoming milestone.
“It’s a special milestone and something I don’t take for granted by any means,” Toews said to the media Monday night, “It’s a moment where you get to stop and look back and appreciate how far you’ve come, the people you’ve met, and teammates you’ve been able to play with.”
For now, the time is best spent enjoying Toews’ milestone. Much like with Keith, Seabrook, and Kane before him, seeing a player reach 1,000 games played all with one club, especially a team as historic as the Blackhawks, is a special feat. In the modern age of sports, seeing star players play their entire careers, or the largest portions of their careers with one team is becoming less and less common. After Toews was drafted third overall in 2006, he came to the Blackhawks and immediately became one of the faces of the future of the club alongside Kane, Seabrook, and Keith.
As one of the faces of the franchise for a decade and a half, Toews’ legacy with the Blackhawks and within the Chicago sports landscape is forever cemented. At the time of his 999th career game, Toews ranks sixth in goals (355), eighth in assists (489), and sixth in points (844). In the postseason, Toews is second in games played (137), tied for fifth in goals (45), fourth in assists (74), and fifth in points (119). Oh, and he captained three Stanley Cup-winning teams and won the 2010 Conn Smythe.
While the recent history of the Blackhawks on the ice involves a modern-era NHL dynasty, the future of the club doesn’t have any Stanley Cup aspirations in its near future. It may not even have Toews involved in the near future, but that’s a different discussion for another time. Whenever the day comes that Toews is no longer with the organization, it will be a very, very long time before we see another player reach 1,000 games played all with the Blackhawks.
Currently on the roster, Alex DeBrincat leads with 353 games played with the club, followed by Connor Murphy with 293 and then Erik Gustafsson with 264. Yes, Erik freakin’ Gustafsson. If we’re talking about young players who might have a chance to play long careers in Chicago, it’s DeBrincat, Dylan Strome (210), Kirby Dach (145), and…that’s it. Lukas Reichel has five NHL games.
Strome is not guaranteed to play with the Blackhawks beyond this season and Kirby Dach, while still young and developing as a player, may or may not have a long-term future in Chicago. So unless Alex DeBrincat signs and plays out a very long-term extension with Chicago, we might not see another Blackhawks player play 1,000 games with the club for an entire “generation” of players.
For Toews, reaching 1,000 games was never a guarantee given the way he plays the game and having to overcome his illness that kept him sidelined all of last year. The next time he steps on the ice, he will have reached that benchmark that 365 other NHL players have reached, and the eighth to do it all with the Chicago Blackhawks.
“When I was a 19-year-old rookie, a lot of people told me how fast it would go by,” Toews said. “I don’t think I believed them as much then as I do now. But it’s going to be special.”
It’s a small potatoes discussion if Chicago gets to host a Stanley Cup parade down Madison Street within the next decade or sooner, but as far as the “One Goal” era of hockey goes, it will officially end whenever Kane and Toews are no longer wearing Blackhawks sweaters.
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