Jonathan Toews to Step Away from the NHL in 2023-24

Former Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews has announced that he will not play in the NHL for the 2023-24 season.

Toews announced on Instagram that while he is not retiring, he will be “taking some time away from the game again this season,” but he is not ruling out a return to the NHL later.

“My focus is to give myself the time and space to fully heal and enjoy life to the fullest once again,” added Toews. “Along the way, I have met several people who have struggled with health issues pertaining to long COVID, chronic immune response syndrome, and other similar cases that are quite complex. I now recognize the importance of one day sharing the details of my health journey with you all.”

Toews Focusing on His Health

Toews, 35, was diagnosed with chronic immune response syndrome ahead of the 2020-21 season. He missed all of that campaign. He returned in time for the 2021-22 season, but was added to the league’s COVID protocol two weeks into the season, and has since developed symptoms of long COVID. This, paired with his CIRS, limited him to just 53 games last season.

That sparked legitimate questions about his playing future, both with the Blackhawks and in the immediate future if he were to sign with a team. Ahead of his contract’s expiration, general manager Kyle Davidson announced that he will not be getting a new contract with the team.

The move was expected, but the shock here was that he didn’t announce his retirement. Most of the talk was about either that or him taking a near-league minimum contract with the Edmonton Oilers, but when his agency gave out their annual list of free agents to interested teams, they said, “we are told his name was not even on the list.”

In the last two seasons, he averaged under 18 minutes a game for the first time in his career. In that span, he had 27 goals, 41 assists, 68 points, and a -45 rating in 124 games played, though he won 60.7% of the faceoffs on the dot. But after missing two out of four seasons heading into 2024-25, it’s going to be a long journey getting back into playing shape if he decides to come back.

Toews’ Legacy in Chicago

Toews will go down as one of the greatest to don a Blackhawks uniform. He was selected third overall in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft after he led the North Dakota Fighting Sioux to the NCAA Frozen Four that year, and since making his NHL debut in the 2007-08 season, he had 372 goals and 511 assists for 883 points in 1,067 career games with the Blackhawks.

Having been named captain of the team ahead of the 2008-09 season, he captained the team to Stanley Cup championships in 2010, 2013, and 2015, and won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2010. He also won the Selke Trophy in 2012-13, and the Mark Messier Leadership Award in 2014-15.

Regardless of the decision he takes in the future, there is no doubt that one day the team will raise his no. 19 up in the rafters of United Center.

“It’s hard to find the words to describe the 16-year journey that has made this city my home,” said Toews. “…It was surreal to witness and be a part of the revival of hockey in Chicago. To all of you, I say thank you. You made my time in Chicago unforgettable.”

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