There came a point this summer when Chicago captain Jonathan Toews
started longing for some normalcy in his life.
Maybe it was when he brought the Stanley Cup to Chicago's Soldier Field, or later in the week when he arrived in New York for the NHL's annual Player Media Tour. Or perhaps he started yearning earlier, say in mid-August, when he was in Toronto for a marketing promotion. It could have been a few weeks later when he was in New York to launch EA Sports' NHL 11 video game.
Such are the problems that come along with being the captain of a Stanley Cup winner.
"To a certain point it was a quick summer, but I feel almost like I am craving the routine of getting back with the boys and getting back in the swing of things during the regular season," Toews told NHL.com. "It's a summer of two days there and two days here. There is so much stuff and you're not used to bouncing around like that, with people demanding your time at different commitments, golf tournaments and appearances with the Stanley Cup. It was pretty busy and overwhelming."
"A lot of people were picking us last year and we did it, but it's all up to what we think of ourselves in the locker room. Do we think we're good enough? Are we going to make excuses about the short summer? Are we going to make excuses about every team getting up to play us? It's all up to us. I still feel there is not really any limit on what we can do."
-- Jonathan Toews
Toews isn't complaining. He lived the high life this summer and spent plenty of time with the Stanley Cup, arguably the world's greatest party magnet. It was nearly 3 1/2 months of people telling Toews how wonderful he is.
"That's what makes winning the Cup so special," Toews said. "So many people care."
Now he'd like them all to leave him alone so he can do his job.
Toews sees the target on his back and is keenly aware that the challenge of repeating is likely to be greater than the challenge of winning the Cup for the first time. In fact, for Toews and the Blackhawks, it probably is because of how many role players they lost this summer due to salary-cap constraints.
Vancouver, not Chicago, appears to be the sexy pick to make it out of the Western Conference in 2010-11. The Detroit Red Wings
are supposed to take command of the Central Division once again. Los Angeles is the hot up-and-coming team now. Edmonton has all the young stars hungry to live up to their potential.
Does it frustrate Toews? Does it anger him?
"Neither," he said. "A lot of people were picking us last year and we did it, but it's all up to what we think of ourselves in the locker room. Do we think we're good enough? Are we going to make excuses about the short summer? Are we going to make excuses about every team getting up to play us? It's all up to us. I still feel there is not really any limit on what we can do."
Not surprisingly, Toews feels the same way on a personal level.
At 22, he's already won his fair share of hardware, but the great ones stay consistent. That's Toews' next great challenge -- one he can begin to tackle this season.
"So much I can improve on and accomplish," Toews said. "There is always going to be a new challenge. You can't say, 'Oh man, now we have everything to lose and we have to try not to screw up.' That's not the mindset at all."
In a way, the whirlwind summer helped motivate Toews to want it all again.
He couldn't work out much because of his commitments, but that also meant he didn't skate until late August.
"I think that was a good thing for me, too," Toews said. "I was finally at the rink and really wanted to be out there. That desire to be back on the ice is going to help me come the season."
Toews was able to recharge his body after a long, grueling season that included seven extra, pressure-filled games in the Olympics. Instead of bulking up, his limited time in the weight room was focused on maintaining his speed and strength.
"Just to make sure I'm healthy all over and mentally ready to play hockey," he said. "I'm definitely looking forward to getting back in the swing of things with the guys and having a normal lifestyle once again."
He's ready to play -- and now he'd kindly appreciate it if everyone would let him do just that. Summer is over and the party magnet is back in its case. It's time to go to work.
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl