Blackhawks fans know they have an incredible young captain in Jonathan Toews. Having watched him from their seats, or through their televisions, it’s easy to see that Toews is a special hockey player. But most fans in Chicago, and all over North America, don’t realize that winning the Stanley Cup would likely cement Toews’ Hall of Fame membership at age 22.
Yes, I said it. If the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup this year, Jonathan Toews is a Hall of Famer.
The Hockey Hall of Fame celebrates the overall achievements of hockey players from all over the globe, both men and women, as well as contributors to the game. No, Toews isn’t scoring at the pace of Gretzky or Lemieux. No, he isn’t dominating between the pipes like Roy or Esposito. But if you’re looking for a complete resume, adding the 2010 Stanley Cup would make Toews’ career achievements among the best of all-time.
At 16, in 2005, Toews was the captain of the Canada West U-17 team that won the gold medal in the World U-17 Hockey Challenge. Toews led the tournament in scoring, and was named the tournament’s MVP.
In 2006, Toews had a very busy year. He led North Dakota to the Frozen Four before the Chicago Blackhawks selected him third overall in the NHL Draft. Later that summer, Toews was the youngest player on Canada’s U-20 team at the World Juniors that won another gold medal.
Another year, another series of accomplishments for Toews in 2007. On a roster with other future NHL stars Travis Zajak, TJ Oshie and Drew Stafford, Toews led the Fighting Sioux of North Dakota back to the Frozen Four. Over that summer, Toews would again represent Canada in the World Juniors and, again, would win a gold medal. This time, however, Toews would lead Canada in scoring and make the tournament’s All Star team. This was the tournament in which Toews became a legend on the international stage with three shootout goals against the United States in the semi-finals.
His 2007 wasn’t over yet, though. Toews would then play for Canada in the World Championships, where he would again win a gold medal. With this gold, Toews became the first Canadian to win gold at both the World Juniors and Worlds in the same year.
He was still 19 years old, but was ready to leave college behind at this point. On Oct. 10, 2007, Toews made his NHL debut against the San Jose Sharks, and he wouldn’t disappoint. Toews would begin his career with a 10-game point streak (five goals and five assists), the second-longest point streak to begin a career in NHL history.
At the end of the 2007-08 season, Toews would finally not win something; he was the runner-up to teammate Patrick Kane for the Calder Trophy. Washington Capitals center Niklas Backstrom was third in the voting that year. Over the summer of 2008, Toews again represented Canada in the World Championships and won the silver.
On July 18, 2008, before the Blackhawks’ fan convention and at just 20 years 79 days old, Toews was named the third-youngest captain in the history of the NHL and the youngest in the history of the Blackhawks organization. Only Tampa’s Vincent Lecavalier and Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby wore the “C” at a younger age than Toews. He is still the youngest captain in the NHL. His first season as captain would end with an improbably run to the Western Conference Finals, where the Hawks lost to the Detroit Red Wings. Toews led the Hawks with 34 goals in just his second NHL season.
That’s already a great resume. But during the 2009-10 season, the achievements continued.
In the 2010 Winter Olympics, Toews led the tournament in assists and was named the Most Outstanding Forward in the Games while leading Canada to the gold medal. With the gold, Toews became the youngest Canadian player ever to win golds in the World Juniors, Worlds and Olympic Games.
As the youngest Canadian player to win golds in the World Juniors, Worlds and Olympics, Toews is already member of an exclusive club. But the Stanley Cup would put Toews over the top.
The IIHF has an exclusive club of their own known as the Triple Gold Club, which is made up 0f 23 players all-time that have won a gold medal in the World Championships and Olympic Games and a Stanley Cup in their careers. To put that number into perspective, more than 9,000 players have tried to win the Stanley Cup since 1893, better than 4,000 have tried to win an Olympic gold since 1920, and over 15,000 players have participated in the Worlds since 193o.
Out of all of those players, only 23 have won a gold in all three, and only nine of which are active in the NHL. Names like Peter Forsberg, Joe Sakic, Rob Blake, Scott Niedermayer, Nicklas Lidstrom and, yes, Chris Pronger are on this most elite list. Winning the Stanley Cup this year would make Toews the 24th player to join the list.
When he won the Stanley Cup in 1996, Forsberg became the youngest player to achieve Triple Gold Club membership at 22 years 325 days. If it takes seven games for the Blackhawks to win the Stanley Cup this year, Toews will be just 22 years 43 days old.
Names that are not on the Triple Gold list: Gretzky, Lemieux, either Hull, Orr, Bourque or Roy.
Considering the amount of young talent in the NHL today, it’s hard to imagine another player achieving this feat faster than Toews for some time; roster spots on a World and Olympic rosters don’t figure to be increasing or coming available in the next few tournaments and there is a substantial amount of doubt surrounding the NHL’s involvement in the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Before his fourth NHL season and 23rd birthday, Toews would have become arguably the most accomplished international hockey player of all time. Gretzky has every scoring record and four Stanley Cup rings, but he never won an Olympic medal and only won a bronze in the World Juniors and Worlds. Sidney Crosby failed to medal in his only appearance in the Worlds (2006 – fourth), and won Olympic gold in large part because of Toews’ play this February.
The only part of Toews’ resume that’s lacking is individual honors in the NHL. He has been an NHL All Star, a member of the all star team at the World Juniors and the MOP of the Olympics. He could add a Conn Smythe this spring as well. If Toews continues to play the way he did this season, there will be Selke trophies and other awards throughout what will hopefully be a long career. But the accomplishments he will have on his resume if, indeed when, the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup would make Toews “career” already worthy of a spot in the Hall of Fame.