Toews, Kane are heartwarming exceptions in an age with few allegiances
BY RICK MORRISSEY firstname.lastname@example.org | @MorrisseyCST July 16, 2014 10:36PM
Updated: July 16, 2014 10:38PM
This is the way it’s supposed to be, in a perfect world, a world that doesn’t exist anymore.
A team dearly wants its best players to remain on the roster, those players dearly want to remain on the roster and what everyone dearly wants comes to pass. No fuss. No contract squabbles. No hints about taking skills elsewhere.
A city that has watched two stars grow from teenagers into men gets more years to watch them perform in their prime and beyond. What is this, 1950?
As we slumped bleary-eyed last week while the NBA free-agent circus dragged on, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane agreed to terms on lucrative contract extensions that will keep them with the Blackhawks for a very long time. The news was that there was no news in it. You expected it. I expected it. Everybody involved expected it.
So there Toews and Kane were Wednesday at a United Center news conference, joined at the hip, as usual, but now at the dollar sign, too. Their extensions are the same — eight years, $84 million, with $44 million in signing bonuses.
“I think we always knew that our hearts [were] in Chicago,’’ Toews said.
“It was not even really a thought to think of continuing your career anywhere else,’’ Kane said.
Let’s not get too nostalgic here, lest we look like sentimental fools. Let’s just say that this is nice, that it feels right, that it’s too bad it can’t be this way more often in sports. Nothing wrong with LeBron James getting to orchestrate his future, but if there’s one thing the San Antonio Spurs have taught us hardheaded types, it’s that very good players playing together for a long time can do great things.
And if there’s one thing that Toews and Kane have taught us, it’s that two great players are capable of giving a franchise a chance to win a championship every season. What more could a fan base want?
The surprise these days is when athletes stick around. LeBron’s talk about “four, five, six’’ NBA titles with the Heat is silenced now that he has bolted back to Cleveland after four seasons in Miami. Carmelo Anthony’s decision to stay with the Knicks wasn’t out of feelings of loyalty. It was because the Knicks could allow him to stack more Maseratis atop each other than other teams could. Winning? A secondary consideration, by about 30 lengths.
Toews and Kane are winners. Two Stanley Cups each. Both with a Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoffs’ most valuable player. A rookie-of-the-year award for Kane and more dramatic game-winning goals than anyone has a right to have. International success for both, but especially for Toews and that country to the north. Canada’s two gold medals the last two Olympics didn’t feel so painful here, not with the Hawks’ captain playing such a prominent role.
Toews is 26. Kane is 25. They have worn the Hawks sweater for seven seasons each, and to think of them in any other uniform is, well, unthinkable. They’re as Chicago as excessive cold and heat. They have done so much in such a short period, it makes your head spin.
They could have made more money had they waited for free agency. They also could have demanded more money in their contract extensions and gotten it. But there was none of that. Only discussions about the salary cap and how to win another Stanley Cup after last season’s opportunity slipped away so painfully.
Right from the beginning, both players seemed to understand they were involved in something special in Chicago. That hasn’t changed.
“It’s unbelievable what this city and what this organization has given us,’’ Toews said. “We want to remain here. We want to remain part of that group and continue the success. I think we’d be crazy to think of anything otherwise. To us, I don’t think there was a decision to be made.’’
Sure, the way the franchise plucks on heartstrings can get old. But it’s a sound that Hawks fans obviously like to hear. When the big screen hanging over the UC ice shows Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita, Tony Esposito and Denis Savard waving from a skybox, it never fails to elicit a roar from the crowd. Toews and Kane eventually will be those guys.
But let’s not rush it. There will be more than enough time for nostalgia. Let’s enjoy their continued presence, at a time when everything else comes and goes.