CHICAGO – It’s hard to think of an opening home game of a National Hockey League season for the Blackhawks without No. 19 or No. 88.
Both Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews have been a fixture on the team’s roster since the late 2000s, from building the team up to a dynasty in the previous decade and now another rebuild in the 2020s.
But when the Blackhawks take the ice on Friday night for their first contest at the United Center during the 2022-2023 regular season against the Red Wings, there is now the possibility it could be their last wearing the team’s sweater.
Kane and Toews are each in the final year of their contracts, so this could be the last time they take part in the traditional opening of the home schedule with the team.
Is that on Kane or Toews’ minds as they take the ice Friday evening?
“No, I haven’t thought about it. Just treating it as another year to try and have a good start. Hopefully, we can take advantage of his homestand,” said Kane when asked if he’d thought about this being his last home opener. “We really haven’t thought about that much.”
Toews, who like Kane made his debut with the Blackhawks in the 2007-2008 season, is doing what he can to stay in the moment as well.
“It’s the home opener, so that’s always an exciting game, regardless of where your team’s at or what the expectations are,” said Toews. “I’m excited to be back and playing in front of our fans of Chicago and hear the United Center at its best tonight.
“So we’ll go out there and try to give them something to cheer for and try to get a big win, and not thinking about much more than that right now.”
When asked more about thinking this could be his last opener, Toews expanded on this potentially being his 16th and final season with the franchise, just as it is Kane.
The captain played one less season than the 2015-2016 MVP since he missed the 2021 pandemic-shortened season due to illness.
“It’s the last year of my contract, so I think it definitely dawns on you that you gotta seize every moment that you can,” said Toews. “Whenever it kinda clicks in on you that you can never take playing this game at this level for granted, especially wearing this sweater.
“I’ll try to do that and I’ll definitely be thinking that way tonight.”