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Jonathan Toews comes to grips with concussion

Hawks captaJonathan Toews took part morning skate Friday but he missed home game against New York Rangers. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

Hawks captain Jonathan Toews took part in the morning skate Friday, but he missed the home game against the New York Rangers. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: April 11, 2012 8:09AM

At first, Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews refused to believe it. He didn’t want to think he was about to join the growing list of NHL players hindered by concussions.

But Toews had to force himself. His well-being had to come first.

“It was a couple of games on the [nine-game] road trip,” said Toews, detailing when his symptoms first developed. “It was so minor at first. It took some time to realize that it might be something more serious.

“When it comes down to it, you hate to admit it to yourself. You see so many guys around the league dealing with [concussions] right now, and you don’t want to be one of those guys. It took some time to kind of come to grips with that and realize I had to rest and had to try to get better.”

So Toews played through the symptoms at first. It wasn’t until after playing against the St. Louis Blues on Feb. 19 that he accepted his ailment wasn’t something he could shake off.

“To a certain level, sometimes you might feel invincible, like there’s nothing that can stop you from playing,” Toews said.

Toews missed his ninth game in a row Friday, when the Hawks hosted the New York Rangers. He took part in the morning skate and stayed on the ice long after it. It was the second consecutive day he skated. Toews said he felt pretty good afterward. The next step in his recovery will be taking contact.

Toews said his car crash Feb. 23, when he drove into a support beam for L tracks, didn’t worsen his condition.

“Not at all,” Toews said. “A lot of people want to tie that in there with this injury. But I guess, as they say, ‘When it rains, it pours.’ It was kind of a rough week when you throw that in there with it. It wasn’t too much fun.”

What caused the crash?

“I was just more concerned with the traffic that was coming down the one-way [street] and completely didn’t see the obstacle that was in front of me,” Toews said. “It was one of those embarrassing things where I didn’t want to get out of my car for a long time.

“It was a crazy day dealing with everything that was going on around it, but the good thing was the only damage was to my car. We’ll live with that.”

Toews said he has thought about his long-term health. He has spoken to defensemen Niklas Hjalmarsson and Steve Montador, who also suffered concussions. He also has exchanged text messages with Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby, whose public battle with a concussion for more than a year has led to increased awareness of head injuries in hockey.

Toews, though, is positive.

“I don’t think we’re at that point where I’m really thinking I’m not going to make a recovery in the next little while,” Toews said.

But having suffered a concussion two seasons ago, Toews said he must side with caution and be honest with himself.

“It’s happened before, and you see how often it happens with players around the league,” Toews said. “You’ve got to be smart about it. I want to make sure I’m 100 percent when I come back and I’m reducing the risk of it ever happening again. It takes a lot of discipline to do that right since it’s exciting to be back on the ice, and you want to be playing right away.”

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