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28/05/2014 / Hackett

A-Toews-ing Grace: Part II

The Blackhawks charter has a somber yet youthful feel to it as it departs Los Angeles International airport after a disappointing game four loss to the Kings. A few players are chatting about the current 3-1 series deficit they face, up front there are coaches going over video on their iPads, and a painfully stoic Jonathan Toews sits in his own row with his headphones on. 

Andrew Shaw gallops over “I gotta show Tazer, this twitter shit is hilarious”, he exclaims before being gang-tackled by the trio of Marian Hossa, Bryan Bickell, and Patrick Kane with his hardest hit of the postseason. 
“Duuuude,” Bickell scolds him, “leave cappy alone, bro. He’s on his Elliott Smith/Jeff Buckley playlist, hands off.”
Coach Joel Quenneville’s looks up briefly as the scuffle catches his eye, but does not otherwise acknowledge the situation.
After disembarking in Chicago, Toews heads to his car and points it towards his downtown condo. He arrives to a doorman who hands him his mail and knows better than to give anything more than a head nod to the pensive star. Toews enters his spacious penthouse and immediately notices a draft. He sets down his mail and grabs his phone as he cautiously investigates. As he approaches his balcony which is big enough for most of us to live on, he spots a familiar figure in the recliner, cigar smoke rising in the moonlight.
“Stan..?” he asks.
“Sit down, Jonathan. Grab a glass.” the figure instructs. 
Toews does as told, and as the smoke dissipates, the face of Blackhawks legend Stan Mikita becomes clear. 
“Jonny, you guys sure backed yourselves into one hell of a corner here, ehh?”
“Man, I’m tired, I don’t need th-“
“Shut up and have a drink. Yes you do.”
Toews reluctantly pours himself three fingers of brown liquor, and looks at the label, “I was saving this shit, this is three hundred dollars a bottle, dude.”
“I’ll have Binny’s send a case, don’t worry. You need to decompress, son. You guys are pent up like a high-schooler on prom night. What’s goin’ on in that head, buddy?”
“I just…I don’t know. We’re getting smoked on special teams, taking stupid penalties, and we look tired when I know there’s gas left in the tank. I know, I just have to remember last year against the Red Wi-“
“Oh screw that shit. The Red Wings were playing with half a goddamn minor league roster. If you didn’t beat them I’d have kicked your ass myself. This is different, boy. This is a team that’s accomplished more than just making the damn playoffs to keep a stupid streak alive and give someone a first-round cupcake. It’s time to really knuckle up.”
Toews, looking surprised and humbled, nods in sheepish agreement. 
Mikita continues: “This is when your boys need you more than ever. They will follow you, they want to follow you. No one’s doubting the effort, of course you guys want to win, but some need to be shown the way, like it or not. This is what you signed up for. Of course Raising The Cup gets your jersey up in the rafters, but these are the moments that cement your legacy. This is a silly, fluky endeavor we’ve chosen, and you’re not going to win every time. But as their field general, you have to make your troops believe you will with every fiber of their being. You will revel with them in times of victory, and pick up the pieces if it goes the other way, but they will never have to look for you. You lead them through it all, front and center.”
“Stan, I know all this.”
“I know you do son, but sometimes we all need reminders. And you know as well as I do, this is one of those damn times. To be the best, you have to b-“
“I know, you have to beat the best, blah blah.”
“No, to be the best, you have to be the best. Be the best, Jonny. Show the world. Or at least those that can find the NBC Sports Network on their fucking channel guide.”
Toews lifts his head, “I will make you proud.”
“Don’t make me proud, make yourself proud. You’re the one who has to look at yourself in the mirror every morning, not me. Find it within, and go get it.”
Toews finishes his drink, “Yes sir.” 
The moon has since receded and Toews winces as the sun makes its first appearance over the edge of Lake Michigan. He glances at his phone and realizes he has practice in just a couple of hours, thanks to what he doesn’t realize is a group text from Quenneville. 
He responds: “Got it, did you send Stosh over here?” 
Quenneville: “Nooooo, not at all… <looks both ways, snickers>”
Kane: “Bobby and I just left The Lodge, but I’ll be there in time!”
Handzus: “You guys are lucky, I got Olczyk. He ate all my fucking ice cream.”
Toews: “Let’s go boys, we got work to do.”

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