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Blackhawks’ Jonathan Toews opens up on first game back in over a year after health scare

Jonathan Toews, Blackhawks, Jonathan Toews return from illness

Chicago Blackhawks star Jonathan Toews didn’t play all of last season because of a mystery illness that he has referred to as “chronic immune response syndrome.” After over 14 months since his last game, Toews returned to the ice for the Blackhawks on Wednesday night in a preseason game against the Detroit Red Wings.

While there was naturally some rustiness, Toews showed a lot of promise as well. Ultimately, the Blackhawks captain was just happy to be back out there.

Via Mark Lazerus of The Athletic:

“All summer, the hardest thing was being a little tentative and scared to push too hard,” Toews told NBC Sports Chicago’s Eddie Olczyk during the first intermission. He said the frustrating part was taking a few steps back sometimes and having to temper his expectations accordingly. But he was smiling as he said that, because all those steps — forward and backward — had brought him back to that bench on the north side of the United Center. The one that’s been home for 13 of the past 14 years.

“Pretty happy and grateful to be out here,” he said.

Toews had an assist and scored in a shootout in the Blackhawks’ 4-3 loss to open preseason action. He mixed it up at times and saw nearly 23 minutes of ice time. While he was tentative at times as well, it’s hard not to be encouraged by what he showed after so much time off, especially given what he went through over the last year.

Toews’ illness took a lot out of him. He also had COVID-19 and thinks he likely dealt with long COVID, which only made his overall health issues worse.

But he’s back now, though, and the Blackhawks are hoping he can look at least a bit like his former self as they try to return to the playoffs. They made a lot of changes in the offseason, and Toews and Patrick Kane are the only two players left from their dynasty.

Whatever happens, it’s just great to see Jonathan Toews back out on the ice.