TOEWS WAS NAY SAYER

Hawks’ cap­tain, Hur­ri­canes’ Marti­nook re­port­edly were only reps to vote against CBA ex­ten­sion, Re­turn to Play plan

Chicago Sun-Times - - SPORTS - bpope@sun­times.com | @BenPopeCST BEN POPE BLACK­HAWKS BEAT

Black­hawks cap­tain Jonathan Toews re­port­edly was one of the two reps who voted against the NHL’s col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing agree­ment ex­ten­sion and Re­turn to Play plan this sum­mer.

Sport­snet’s El­liotte Fried­man re­ported on his pod­cast last week — com­ments that came to light Wed­nes­day — that Toews and Hur­ri­canes rep­re­sen­ta­tive Jor­dan Marti­nook were the two ‘‘no’’ votes in the NHL Play­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion’s 29-2 ap­proval.

Toews also re­port­edly took an ac­tive, crit­i­cal role in ne­go­ti­a­tions and dis­cus­sions with the NHL when the plan was be­ing ironed out.

“I have been told by many, many, many play­ers that one of the most vo­cal play­ers dur­ing the process of com­ing back to play was Jonathan Toews, that he asked a lot of ques­tions,” Fried­man said. “They said he was great. He asked rel­e­vant ques­tions; he chal­lenged whether or not this was re­ally safe to play. They said that when you talk about star play­ers stand­ing up for other peo­ple, he did that.

“A cou­ple of guys told me at times they thought Toews was a real pain in the butt for some of the peo­ple at the NHLPA, but it was from a place that had good in­ten­tions.”

The NHLPA nonethe­less of­fi­cially ap­proved the CBA ex­ten­sion and RTP plan July 10. The CBA ex­ten­sion will last through 2026; the RTP plan is al­ready in Phase 3 and will en­ter Phase 4 shortly, with teams trav­el­ing to their hub cities Sun­day, then the play­offs be­gin­ning Aug. 1.

Fried­man’s re­port stands in stark con­trast to Toews’ com­ments about the coro­n­avirus after the Hawks’ first train­ing-camp prac­tice that stirred con­tro­versy and some con­dem­na­tion.

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

Toews then ex­panded on his thoughts a few min­utes later in the in­ter­view.

“Does any­body re­ally know how and when peo­ple catch this thing?” he said. “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 has not been among the hand­ful of play­ers se­lected by Hawks spokes­peo­ple to talk after any of the prac­tices — the cur­rent me­dia-ac­cess pol­icy dur­ing Phase 3 — since then.

Fried­man spec­u­lated later in his pod­cast that Toews was try­ing to leave his own opin­ion out of his com­ments on COVID-19 and its re­la­tion­ship with the NHL but ended up say­ing some things that didn’t come across the way he in­tended.

The is­sue is es­sen­tially be­hind Toews now, though. Of greater con­cern is his ab­sence from prac­tice Tues­day after miss­ing the sec­ond half of prac­tice Mon­day.

Coach Jeremy Col­li­ton said Mon­day that he was just try­ing to keep Toews “fresh,” but then he said Tues­day that Toews, 32, fell un­der the new “un­fit to par­tic­i­pate” term.

The Hawks didn’t prac­tice Wed­nes­day, but they’ll re­turn to Fifth Third Arena on Thurs­day for their last four prac­tices be­fore depart­ing for Edmonton.

KAMIL KRZACZYNSK­I/AP Jonathan Toews took an ac­tive, crit­i­cal role in ne­go­ti­a­tions and dis­cus­sions with the NHL.

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