Thursday was the first day of training camp for the Chicago Blackhawks ahead of the 2021-22 season, and a welcome dose of good news arrived as practice started at 10:30 a.m. at the Fifth Third Arena.
Captain Jonathan Toews was on the ice in a Blackhawks uniform in an official capacity for the first time since the team was eliminated from the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs:
heeeeeere’s Jonny pic.twitter.com/YOtLJfVn7N— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) September 23, 2021
There had been no public acknowledgement from Toews or the team that this was going to happen, only adding to the air of mystery around the captain and the ailment that kept him sidelined for all of the 2021 season. It’s a good start, although there are still several weeks between now and the first game of the regular season and Toews said he still has some physical improvements to make before he’s back to full strength:
Toews: “As dog tired as I was today it’s a good feeling as opposed to, ‘I’m in trouble,’ and I’ll be up on the couch doing nothing for 2-3 days. To me that’s progress.” @WGNNews #Blackhawks— Josh Frydman (@Josh_Frydman) September 23, 2021
Toews was directly asked about whether or not he’d be playing in the first game of the season and was non-commital with his answer:
Will Toews play on Opening Night?— Ben Pope (@BenPopeCST) September 23, 2021
"That's my goal, but I have to keep being patient.
I'm not firing on all cylinders and my conditioning is not quite there yet, so I'm just chipping away at that... That's my plan, I'd love to, but I'm focused on tomorrow for now."
Want some practice videos? Here are some practice videos, courtesy of Scott Powers of The Athletic on Twitter:
Lukas Reichel continues to show off his speed and skill. pic.twitter.com/KKyxJImcYy— Scott Powers (@ByScottPowers) September 23, 2021
Jake McCabe’s mobility stands out pic.twitter.com/oB0wcPP7kC— Scott Powers (@ByScottPowers) September 23, 2021
Iso on Jonathan Toews pic.twitter.com/vqXGulMm06— Scott Powers (@ByScottPowers) September 23, 2021
Is it too early to talk line combinations? Of course not:
Blackhawks lines in practice:— Ben Pope (@BenPopeCST) September 23, 2021
Several Blackhawks players addressed the media on Thursday as did team president of hockey operations and general Stan Bowman, who started off by addressing the team’s vaccination rate:
Stan Bowman addressed the media and offered some good news from the start:
Blackhawks are 100 percent vaccinated, per Stan Bowman.— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) September 23, 2021
This news comes one week after the NHL projected a vaccination rate of 98 percent among its players before the start of the 2021-22 season, which put the total number of vaccinated players between 10 and 15. No word if that figure included Zac Rinaldo or not.
After the Hawks had their own COVID issues during February of the 2021 season, a fully vaccinated team removes one possible way that players could be sidelined which is never a bad thing.