Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews is back on the ice in Chicago.
Toews missed the entire 2020-21 season with what, at the time he announced his absence in late December, was an unknown condition. On Wednesday morning, he provided an update to fans to shed some light on his health and his road back to hockey.
"I just think there was a lot of things that piled up where my body just fell apart," Toews said in a video posted to his Twitter account. "What they're calling it was Chronic Immune Response Syndrome, where I just couldn't quite recover and my immune system was just reacting to everything that I did, any kind of stress. Anything that I would do throughout the day, there was always kind of that stress response.
"It took some time," he continued. "That was the frustrating part was not really knowing when or how we were going to get over the hump. Thankfully I've got a great support team of people that helped me through it. I learned a lot about just the stress I've put on my body over the years."
Following a long period away from the ice, it is only the first step in the captain's road back to game action at the United Center. But, like so many around the U.S. are experiencing over the past few weeks and months, a return to some level of normalcy is a welcomed sight.
"It feels great. It's been a long time," he said. "Honestly, I haven't taken this much time off the ice probably ever -- since I was a kid, at least. It's definitely nice to be back in Chicago, see some of the guys again and just slowly but surely just settle into the life and the routine again. It's a good feeling right now."
Toews' absence, especially following his team-leading five goals and nine points in as many games during the playoff run in Edmonton last August, was undoubtedly worrisome to so many who cared, first and foremost, about the wellbeing of the longtime leader. He explained, though, that it simply took time to figure out what was going on with his body and how to get back to the ice, a process he wasn't ready to share publicly until now.
"A lot of people were worried and I definitely felt bad, to a certain degree, that people were that worried, that they thought it was pretty serious, but in the back of my mind I knew I'd get through it, it was just a matter of time. I wasn't too vocal about the things I went through this year and definitely want to thank the fans, my teammates, the organization -- Rocky, Stan, Jeremy -- everybody… I've had so many people across the hockey world and fans and people that have shown their support.
"I'm excited to get back to the United Center and play and just go out there and have fun. I think my best is going to come through and I'm excited to get back in front of the fans."