NHL: Former UND hockey player named playoff MVP as Chicago wins Stanley Cup
Three years ago, the Chicago Blackhawks were a last-place team, 25 points out of the playoffs. They only had one playoff appearance in a decade.
Three years ago, the Chicago Blackhawks were a last-place team, 25 points out of the playoffs. They only had one playoff appearance in a decade. Those were the circumstances when the Blackhawks signed a 19-year-old All-American from the University of North Dakota in the summer of 2007.
But just like he's done throughout his career, Jonathan Toews made sure his team was a winner.
With a 4-3 overtime win in Philadelphia Wednesday, Toews and the Blackhawks captured the Stanley Cup championship.
It was the first Cup for the Blackhawks in 49 years.
The 22-year-old Toews first accepted the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP. Then, he returned to the podium to accept hockey's greatest prize.
"It's like that commercial," Toews said. "I'm speechless.
"This is the best feeling you can get playing hockey. I can't believe this happened."
For those following Toews' career, this is very believable.
The IIHF has something called the "Triple Gold Club" for those who have won the World Men's Championship, Olympics and Stanley Cup. Toews became the 24th member and the youngest.
Only nine players, including Toews, have a World Junior title to go along with the Triple Gold Club. Nobody has completed that feat under the age of 30. Toews is 22.
"It's tough to bet against the guy," UND coach Dave Hakstol said. "Because he's a winner.
"This is just a continuation of the type of performances we've become accustomed to seeing from him. In saying that, there's absolutely nothing ordinary about what he's doing."
Toews is the first WCHA player to ever captain a team to a Stanley Cup. He's also the first WCHA player to win Conn Smythe.
"How cool is that?" asked UND captain Chay Genoway, who was Toews' roommate at Shattuck-St. Mary's and close friend in Grand Forks.
"It has all come so quickly. He was here just a couple of years ago. Now, all of the sudden, he's one of the most recognized guys in that city."
Toews' season has been one for the history books.
Four months ago, he was the leading scorer for gold medalist Canada in the Olympic Games. Toews - not Sidney Crosby or Alexander Ovechkin - was named the most valuable forward in that tournament.
Toews returned to the Blackhawks and was just as brilliant in the NHL playoffs. The Winnipeg native broke Stan Mikita's team playoff point streak record and tied Denis Savard's playoff point record.
Sports legend Michael Jordan even showed up to Game 5 of the finals wearing a Toews jersey and Jordan's statue outside of the United Center donned the same sweater.
"You can't write a better story than what he's done," said Genoway, who talks to Toews on a regular basis. "He deserves all of the success he's gotten. I've never met a guy who has worked harder for it than him. Everyone knew he was going to be great.
"The greatest part is that through all of his success, Jonny is just Jonny. He's so modest. All of this will never go to his head. He'll never change. He's just a fun-loving, regular guy. You'd never know who he was."
Brad Schlossman is a sports reporter for the Grand Forks Herald, a Forum Communications Co. Newspaper