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Blackhawks’ Jonathan Toews denies he voted against NHL Return to Play plan, new CBA

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The Chicago captain was concerned about players’ healthy and safety while playing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chicago Blackhawks v Detroit Red Wings Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images

Jonathan Toews denied a report that said he voted against the NHL Return to Play Plan and Collective Bargaining Agreement four-year extension, which was ratified by the NHL and NHL Players’ Association on July 10.

“From what I understand, it was Elliotte Friedman who made a comment on a podcast, and I don’t know where he got that from,” Toews said Thursday. “I’ll be completely honest, I don’t know how much I want to get into my reasons why, but I wasn’t one of the guys who voted. I voted yes. If anything, I wanted the guys in our room to educate themselves about what was going on and make their own decision.

“But deep down, I wanted guys to really think about voting yes. That’s where I stood. So I don’t know where that came from, and maybe who gave him the impression that I voted no.”

Toews is the Blackhawks’ player representative on the NHLPA’s executive board, which is represented by one player from each team. The report came from Friedman of Sportsnet on the “31 Thoughts: The Podcast” on July 16, but it didn’t gain attention in Chicago until Wednesday.

“I have been told by many, many, many players that one of the most vocal players during the process of coming back to play was Jonathan Toews, that he asked a lot of questions,” Friedman said on the podcast. “And other players said ... he was great, he asked relevant questions, (and) he challenged whether or not this was really safe to play. They said that when you talk about star players standing up for other people, he did that.”

The Lightning and Hurricanes were the only two teams opposed to the NHL’s 24-team return-to-play proposal during an early vote in May.

The Blackhawks, the No. 12 seed in the Western Conference, will play the No. 5 seed Oilers in a best-of-five Stanley Cup qualifier series starting Aug. 1 at Rogers Place in Edmonton, one of the two hub cities. If the Blackhawks win, they’ll advance to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2017 while if they lose they’ll have an equal chance (12.5 percent) along with the other seven eliminated qualifier teams at the No. 1 pick in Phase 2 of the NHL Draft Lottery, which will be Aug. 10.

“There’s no perfect scenario right now,” Toews said. “Am I happy that we’re returning to play? Am I happy the NHL and players agreed, even though the agreement and the details of everything are imperfect? You can stress out about it until the cows come home, but I am happy that both sides were able to come to a place where we could agree to take that step forward toward eventually resuming what we all assume is somewhat of a normal life.

“I think for our fans in Chicago, they’re excited to watch [the] Hawks on TV and I think it can provide some form of relief and inspiration and feeling of comfort. So I am happy that hockey is going to be going again shortly. We can all squabble about the details about the bubble, not all of that I agree with, but it’s neither here nor there. Like I said, it’s pretty much impossible to come up with a perfect scenario right now, but I’m glad we’re all on the same page and playoff hockey is on its way.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect Toews’ response to the report he voted no against the NHL Return To Play Plan and CBA.