Toews has great time at char­ity game in re­turn to Win­nipeg

SundayXtra - - SPORTS HOCKEY - By Ed Tait

THE venue was smaller, the in­ten­sity level vir­tu­ally nil and the stakes nonex­is­tent. So, no, this isn’t the homecoming Jonathan Toews had in mind when the NHL made its tri­umphant re­turn to Win­nipeg a year- and- a- half ago.

In a per­fect, non- lock­out world, Toews and his Chicago Black­hawks — who did not pay a visit in Year 1 of the Jets’ re­birth — would have stepped onto the ice in front of an­other rau­cous, sold- out crowd at the MTS Cen­tre for the sec­ond game of the 2012- 13 NHL sea­son back on Oct. 16.

In­stead, the Black­hawks’ cap­tain was dart­ing around the ice in front of a ca­pac­ity crowd of about 1,700 at Max Bell Cen­tre at the Univer­sity of Man­i­toba and sport­ing a blue NHL Play­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion jersey in the “Goals For Dreams” char­ity game that fea­tured 17 NHLers and mem­bers of the Win­nipeg Po­lice Pa­trol­men Hockey Club.

But the sil­ver lin­ing is this: The event helped raise $ 80,000 for The Dream Fac­tory and The Chil­dren’s Hospi­tal Foun­da­tion of Man­i­toba.

“It was great,” said Toews. “You saw the fans... they’re ex­cited and they want to watch hockey and have their Jets back. Ev­ery­one knows it was an ex­cit­ing year for the Jets to be back in Win­nipeg last year. I was ex­cited to get my chance to come back here and play in Oc­to­ber. That didn’t hap­pen, un­for­tu­nately. But this is a pretty good sub­sti­tute for the time be­ing.

“I was just talk­ing to the guys... It feels good to be able to play in front of the fans again. It was a great op­por­tu­nity to do it. I’m def­i­nitely happy we came out.”

As the Goals for Dreams was un­fold­ing word was break­ing about the NHL and the NHLPA get­ting to­gether for an­other meet­ing Mon­day in New York. But those sort of news flashes, now that the lock­out is now into its third month, are in one ear and out the other for many — in­clud­ing the play­ers.

“Even when there’s been progress we al­ways tell our­selves not to get overly op­ti­mistic,” said Toews. “It’s been a thing the league likes to do, they al­most toy with the emo­tions of the play­ers and the fans, es­pe­cially when they say there’s progress and they might be get­ting close ( to a deal). Ev­ery­one gets ex­cited think­ing there might be a deal made and the next thing you know the rug gets pulled out from un­der­neath our feet pretty quick.

“I think fans are start­ing to un­der­stand that and are maybe get­ting as frus­trated as the play­ers are with that type of thing. We know not to take it too se­ri­ously un­til things are done.”

Toews has been one of the more out­spo­ken play­ers dur­ing this process and his frus­tra­tion was ob­vi­ous again Satur­day af­ter­noon. In­stead of talk­ing about a Hawks’ win streak or dis­sect­ing prob­lems on the power play, he’s talk­ing about hockey- re­lated rev­enue and split­ting up what was once a $ 3.3- bil­lion pie. And if it’s old read­ing and hear­ing about it, it’s even older liv­ing it.

“It feels re­ally un­nec­es­sary for so many rea­sons,” said Toews. “You go to the meet­ings, you’re on the phone calls, you do ev­ery­thing you can and there’s a lot of prin­ci­ples. At the end of the day we feel that we have that ad­van­tage in that you can make ar­gu­ments that al­ways end up in our favour, but it doesn’t re­ally mat­ter in the eyes of fans. They want to see hockey.

“We knew com­ing into it that we’d have to be pa­tient. We’re get­ting to that point where it’s tough but, as play­ers, we’re stay­ing strong and we’re do­ing what we have to do.”

Ot­tawa Se­na­tor Jim O’Brien leaves Black­hawk Jonathan Toews in his wake dur­ing the end- to- end ac­tion.

Po­lice­man Dale But­land ( left) and Preds’ Colin Wil­son crack big grins. Max Bell Arena was packed to the rafters for the Goals for Dreams Hockey Chal­lenge.

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