Gold has the atomic number of 79, but maybe it should be 19. Or, 16, Jonathan Toews’ other number when he’s not lifting Stanley Cup silver with the Chicago Blackhawks. If Fort Knox ever gets a little low, it can always raid Toews' trophy case.
Sunday afternoon, Sochi time, Toews got another golden orb presented around his neck after his Team Canada’s dominant 3-0 win over Sweden in the championship in men’s hockey. At this point, maybe we should just call him MC Johnny Gold. Jay-Z would be jealous of all the bling on Toews’ chest.
Here are some truly amazing facts and numbers: Toews won a gold medal in 2005 in the under-17 World Hockey Challenge. He won gold with Canada in 2006 and 2007 in the world junior championships, and one at the 2007 world championship. He’s got gold from the 2010 and, now, the 2014 Olympics. Oh, and the two Stanley Cups. Oh, and he’s 25 years old.
In the biggest game of all on Sunday, which Canadian player made the biggest play of the game, the one that set the tone for the rest of the day? Toews, of course.
It happened a little past the midway point of the first period. Until then, Sweden had played pretty well, maybe even had the better of the overall play against the mighty Canadians. Maybe Toews sensed this, because he made the kind of play that says “OK guys, I’ll put a stop to this for us.”
Daniel Alfredsson, the ancient Swede, had the puck in his own zone with some decent time and space to skate it out. But he tried to fancy-deke his way out of the zone, going east-west when he should have gone straight north with the puck. Toews saw this, charged Alfredsson and knocked the puck loose. Linemate Jeff Carter grabbed it and skated down into the right corner before centering a pass on net.
Who was there to knock the puck past Henrik Lundqvist? MC Johnny Gold, of course. While Alfredsson was still wondering where the puck went, Toews immediately charged the net and got his reward.
It was his first goal of the tournament, but it was the game-winner in the gold-medal game. His legend just keeps growing.
He was just tremendous in the gold-medal game, always hard on the puck and not just in the offensive zone. Where you really notice him a lot is his play in the defensive and neutral zones. He’s always square on his haunches, his eyes pierced on the puck and his man. Did we mention he’s also won a Selke Award?
This is a guy who also took his North Dakota teams to back-to-back NCAA Frozen Four tournaments. He won the Conn Smythe Trophy with the Blackhawks in 2010, as a 22-year-old. A few months before, when he was still 21, he was named the top forward in the Olympics in Vancouver. We hear he also wins at charades every time in the Blackhawks player lounge. Just kidding, we think.
The St. Louis Blues could have taken Toews in the 2006 NHL draft, but they passed him over for Erik Johnson. Whoops. The Blues have Stanley Cup aspirations this season, but the route to the hallowed chalice figures to go through Madison Street again, with the Blackhawks and Blues tied in points in the Central Division (though the Blues have three games in hand). When all is said and done, there could be a thing called the “Toews Curse” in St. Louis.
Will a Stanley Cup hangover, not to mention now an Olympic one, get the best of Toews and the Blackhawks this spring? Winning gold in Vancouver sure didn’t seem to dull Toews’ hunger for winning any, after his Conn Smythe playoff run in Chicago’s first Cup since 1960.
Winning sure didn’t look old hat to Toews at today’s award ceremonies, either. The player with a reputation for always being serious and intense flashed a smile that lit up the arena, and he sang along to “O Canada” with the rest of his teammates, who conjoined arms and rocked from skate to skate.
Maybe what we’re all witnessing is the unfolding career of hockey’s greatest winner? He already is the youngest player ever to win hockey’s coveted “Triple Gold”—Olympics, World Championship and Stanley Cup. Assuming NHL players keep going to the Olympics, Toews could realistically still go to three more Games for Canada. How many more Cups might he win with Chicago in that span?
Toews wears red with the Blackhawks and Team Canada. The rest of his hockey wardrobe is gold.
Adrian Dater has covered the NHL for 19 years with The Denver Post. Follow him on Twitter @Adater
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