by Scott King
At 431 N. Troy St., near the intersection of Franklin Blvd. and Kedzie Ave., you wouldn’t expect to walk into Morton School of Excellence and find countless children wearing Blackhawks sweaters, but that was certainly the case on Tuesday. The predominantly African American school was eagerly awaiting a visit from Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews after completing the “Toews Teamwork Challenge” and the G.O.A.L. program.
Per the Hawks, “G.O.A.L. (Get Out and Learn) introduces hockey at the grassroots level to kids who may not otherwise have the opportunity to try hockey. The program brings hockey to schools, community centers, and other places where kids can play in safe, structured environments.”
Toews, like many, has noticed Blackhawks fandom extend to communities all over the city of Chicago.
“I think that’s a special thing,” the captain said. “Not only [for what] our sport and what the Blackhawks have done in this city, being able to reach people from all types of backgrounds, I think to add on to that, the organization does a terrific job of setting up opportunities like this for players to go interact and give back to the community.
“It’s always interesting to see what they’re doing, where they’re at, it’s just amazing. A lot of guys on our team have young children now and it seems that they learn so fast. Whether it’s on their devices or social media, they just seem to be really tapped into what’s going on. It’s pretty cool to see the types of programs that are being implemented in schools right now as well.”
Morton’s auditorium was roaring with cheers and applause as Toews ran down the aisle, high-fiving every student he could along the way. Toews, the Blackhawks and hockey struck a chord with the children and left them with a day they wouldn’t soon forget.
“Whatever your dream is, whether you want to grow up to be a hockey player like the two of us (Toews and Blackhawks Community Liaison Jamal Mayers, also onstage), or if you don’t want to be a hockey player at all, you want to do something completely different, that’s cool,” Toews told the packed auditorium of attentive students. “Whatever your dreams and your goals are, at a young age it’s great to learn those tools, the little things.
“Whether it’s healthy eating, whether it’s doing your homework, practicing, practicing over and over to try to improve and get better at something, whatever skill you’re trying to acquire… All those little things, being part of a team, sacrificing a little bit of yourself for the group around you so you can accomplish something greater. All those little things add up that help you become a better person, better at whatever you want to do. That’s going to help you become successful later in life.”
It’s not just Toews’ words that may make a difference in those kids’ lives, it’s not the hardware (three Stanley Cups, two Olympic gold medals, one Selke trophy, one Conn Smythe trophy and one World Cup of Hockey title), it’s the leadership, the accessibility and the example he sets.
Just the day before his visit to Morton, Toews also spoke at the Chicago Blackhawks Alumni Association scholarship luncheon.
Knock on ice, but for the entire time he’s called Chicago home, Toews hasn’t been arrested, he hasn’t had to give a public apology for saying the wrong thing, he doesn’t even engage in Twitter beefs, well not real ones…
At a time in the city’s history perhaps when young Chicagoans need role models the most, Jonathan Toews is front and center, especially after registering 26 points since January 22 and looking ready to lead the Hawks on another serious run at the Stanley Cup.
“I think he’s an excellent role model because he’s showing them that when you get the opportunity, take that opportunity and do something good with it and he’s doing that,” said the Chicago Police Department’s Superintendent Eddie Johnson of Toews. “And then, on top of that, then he’s coming out to this school to give back to the community, and that’s what it’s all about.”
“It’s great,” Toews said of his visit to Morton. “It just seems like you look at our schedule, I don’t know how it compares to other seasons, but it always seems like it’s really tough to find time to get away from the rink and do these types of things, so it’s nice to have this little four-day rest between games. We’re kind of heading into the mix again for the next month, it’s nice to take some time, take a few hours and come to a school like this.”
Toews and the Hawks take on the Anaheim Ducks at the United Center Thursday at 7:30 pm.
Follow Blackhawks Crazy on Facebook for everything Blackhawks!