Toews’ coro­n­avirus com­ments cause a stir

Chicago Sun-Times - - SPORTS - bpope@sun­times.com | @BenPopeCST BY BEN POPE, STAFF RE­PORTER

The Black­hawks have gone to great lengths, in­clud­ing a mora­to­rium on in­ter­views through­out the spring, to stay out of the spot­light dur­ing the coro­n­avirus pan­demic.

But with daily prac­tices — and daily in­ter­views — re­sum­ing Mon­day, cap­tain Jonathan Toews didn’t take long to make sev­eral con­tro­ver­sial com­ments about the pan­demic.

Asked about the NHL’s Re­turn to Play plan, which will cre­ate a so-called bub­ble around play­ers in the hub cities, Toews said he’s ex­cited that hockey will be a “fron­trun­ner” in the re­turn of sports.

“You’re go­ing to find all sorts of dif­fer­ent at­ti­tudes as far as the bub­ble,” he said. “Part of me just says be­ing away from peo­ple and iso­lat­ing our­selves isn’t re­ally the an­swer.”

Toews ex­panded on his thoughts a few min­utes later.

“Does any­body re­ally know how and when peo­ple catch this thing?” he asked rhetor­i­cally. “The best you can do is get good rest, eat healthy, take care of your body, do the lit­tle things that lower your chances. What else can you do?

“Sit­ting around and wor­ry­ing about it is just go­ing to drive you crazy. The NHL’s gone to great lengths to cre­ate a safe en­vi­ron­ment. It’s far from per­fect, but ev­ery­one has their own be­liefs in see­ing where they stand with all this.”

Toews’ com­ments caused a stir on Twit­ter, with many fans point­ing out stud­ies in­di­cat­ing sci­en­tists ac­tu­ally have de­ter­mined how COVID-19 is trans­mit­ted, and that so­ciald­is­tanc­ing has proved ef­fec­tive in slow­ing that trans­mis­sion.

It’s not Toews’ first out­spo­ken mo­ment since the sea­son stopped. He posted an emo­tional state­ment on In­sta­gram on June 1, shortly af­ter Ge­orge Floyd’s death, call­ing for “white peo­ple to open our eyes and our hearts.”

Seabrook praised

De­fense­man Brent Seabrook’s bearded face was some­how a fa­mil­iar as well as a sur­pris­ing sight at Fifth Third Arena.

Af­ter 15 sea­sons with the Hawks, Seabrook has en­dured thou­sands and thou­sands of prac­tices. But not since Dec. 18 had Seabrook, com­ing off three surg­eries, skated with the rest of the team.

“It’s not go­ing to be easy, but the fact that he’s here and he can provide his ex­pe­ri­ence and his pres­ence to the group, it’s a huge ben­e­fit for us,” coach Jeremy Col­li­ton said.

“I know Brent is fully aware of his body and what he wants to do,” de­fense­man Dun­can Keith said. “To be join­ing the group in the mid­dle of sum­mer, with­out a proper lead-up to the train­ing camp, just shows the kind of char­ac­ter and com­mit­ment he has. We all take note of that, and it inspires all of us.”

Mitchell agree­ment im­mi­nent

Top prospect Ian Mitchell unof­fi­cially signed his en­try-level con­tract with the Hawks in April, but that con­tract hasn’t been of­fi­cially filed yet be­cause its start date re­mains to be de­ter­mined.

The Hawks could burn one of Mitchell’s three en­try-level years on 2019-20, let­ting him prac­tice with the team, but he’d be in­el­i­gi­ble for the play­offs be­cause he signed af­ter the sea­son stopped in March. Or they could have his con­tract start with the 2020-21 sea­son.

Gen­eral man­ager Stan Bow­man said he’s close to an agree­ment with Mitchell’s agent about which path to take.

Oil­ers down 2 de­fense­men

Oil­ers de­fense­man Mike Green was one of a hand­ful of play­ers to opt out of the restart. The 34-year-old vet­eran, who played only two games for the Oil­ers af­ter a dead­line trade from Detroit and be­fore the sea­son pause, cited “deeply per­sonal fam­ily health rea­sons.”

The Oil­ers also missed young de­fense­man Caleb Jones at their first prac­tice. Jones, like Corey Craw­ford, re­ceived the “un­fit for play” des­ig­na­tion.

AP

Jonathan Toews

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