At 24, Jonathan Toews has already accomplished most things that other athletes only dream of doing. He won a Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks and was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy for playoff MVP. He scored a gold medal as part of team Canada. He’s an all-star and has been captain of the Hawks since he was 20 years old, making him one of the youngest captains in NHL history.
But when he walks into the Splash photo shoot after practice, wearing a grey henley and jeans, he could easily pass as the boy next door. He’s quiet, easygoing and modest. Though he’s only done a handful of fashion photo shoots, he’s a natural in front of the camera, but it turns out that — just like when he’s on the ice — Toews has a strategy.
“At the start, you give a few different smiles, then a serious badass face,” he jokes. “After that, I’m out of ideas. But it gets me out of my comfort zone and it’s a fun thing to do.”
Catching Toews off the ice is a challenge this season. Thanks to the NHL lockout — during which owners and the players union battled over a new collective bargaining agreement — the schedule has been condensed to include 48 games in 99 days. But the sped-up schedule seems to suit the Blackhawks. At press time, the team was off to the best points start (20-0-3) in NHL history, and hadn’t lost a single game in regulation time (though they’ve lost three in shootouts)(Ed. — They’ve since lost two). Toews credits the team camaraderie for its dominant record. “We went on the road for two weeks to start the year, so it was a good thing for us,” he says. “Guys were hanging out, going for dinner and doing that sort of thing. The more you spend time together it helps the chemistry, both in the locker room and on the ice.”
During the lockout, though, Toews took some time for himself. While teammates such as Patrick Kane and Bryan Bickell played overseas, Toews stayed put, taking advantage of the time off by working out and making sure he was fully recovered from last year’s head injury, which sidelined him for the final 22 games of the season. “I wanted to be in better shape so when the season did start, I was ready to go,” he says. “It was kind of nice to get that break, but once we got to Christmas it was like, OK, enough is enough, the joke is over. Let’s play hockey.” But the downtime was also tough for Toews. “Going through the lockout, you kind of realize what you take for granted, and it’s being around the guys and going on the road,” he says. “It’s what you’ve been doing since you were 5 years old, and that’s taken away from you and you feel pretty empty.”
The time away from the rink was a drastic change for Toews, who has eaten, slept and breathed hockey for almost his entire life. He grew up in Winnipeg, Canada, one of two boys in a hockey-obsessed household, dreaming of playing in the NHL. (His younger brother, David, plays in the minor leagues.) “It was hockey all the time,” says Toews. “My dad made a backyard rink when were growing up, and all the money my mom and dad made they pretty much spent sending us to hockey camps and buying us equipment. It was our life.” When he was 15, he moved to Minnesota to attend the prestigious Shattuck-St. Mary’s boarding school, known for its exceptional hockey program. After graduation, he attended and played two seasons at the University of North Dakota before the Blackhawks drafted him at age 19. Since then, it’s been a whirlwind of accomplishments: He was made team captain a year after joining the team, won Olympic gold in 2010, led the Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup shortly after and was named playoff MVP. So which was more of a thrill? “To be playing for Team Canada at the Olympics, it was a dream come true,” says Toews. “But to win the Stanley Cup here in Chicago, with the group we had, that’s a bond you have with those guys for the rest of your life. There’s nothing more special than that.”
Despite his high profile, the guy playfully known as “Captain Serious” takes a more low-key approach to everyday life. After games and on off days, while other athletes frequent the club scene, Toews prefers to visit his favorite restaurant, a low-profile sushi spot in the South Loop, or take in a movie. And he shuns flashy spending when it comes to cars — he just bought a Chevy Volt — and clothes. “I do the whole one-stop shop: You find something you like, buy it and wear that same thing for the next five months until you can’t wear it anymore and then it’s time to go shopping,” he says. In the off-season, he heads back to Canada to visit family and friends, and spends time at his cabin on Lake of the Woods in Ontario.
But when he’s on the ice, he’s completely focused on helping the Blackhawks win. “We’ve been on a roller coaster ride the last two seasons, and I think this year we’ve found that consistency and we’ve found our depth,” he says. “Every single guy knows their role, and has confidence in themselves, even if they’re up against the other team’s top players. Top to bottom, we all [take responsibility for games], so there’s not as much on just a handful of guys. We have a lot of skill sets, and that makes us a really good team.”
He’s grateful to Chicago fans for sticking by the team during the lockout and coming back ready to cheer — and he’s eager to bring the Stanley Cup back in their honor. “One of the biggest surprises has been the support from the fans after everything they went through with the lockout, and all the crap in the press about the arguments,” he says. “They’ve come back and they’re excited about hockey. They want a trophy.”
Chicago fans: “Chicago sports fans don’t necessarily go for the superstars; they like the hardworking type of guys who will just grind it out. That’s the type of team we have. We have a lot of skill, but we have guys who work really hard and go the extra amount to win. It reflects Chicago — a city full of great, down-to-earth, humble people.”
Pregame rituals: “I hate to get into superstitions because if all of a sudden you don’t do something, that’s what you’re thinking about. It takes you mentally away from what you’re trying to do on the ice.”
Burnout: “There are days that are tough, but our coaches are good at giving us those days off. To not have to go to the rink, to relax or hang out with your friends, it gives you a break and you come back the next day fresh and ready to work hard again.”
On “Slapshot”: “It’s the classic [hockey movie]. I could watch it again and again.”
Story by Molly Each | Photos by Maria Ponce
Hair: Kristen Warken and Skyler Bahrke for Anthony Cristiano; Makeup: Sarah Lukasiewicz for Amazing Cosmetics; Stylist: Eric Himel; Venue: United Center; Shoot Coordinator: Katerina Bizios
Henley: AllSaints, his own; Pants: G-Star, his own; Belt: Hugo Boss, $135 and black leather jacket: Hugo Boss, $695, Saks Fifth Avenue Men’s Store, 717 N. Michigan, Saksfifthavenue.com