Jonathan Toews says he is stepping away from hockey -- but not for good.
The former Chicago Blackhawks captain -- and current unrestricted free agent -- announced in a social media post Thursday that while he's "not fully retiring" from the NHL, he will be "taking some time away from the game again this season."
"I cannot deny my love for the game of hockey and still feel the passion for competing at my highest level," Toews posted on Instagram. "However, these last few seasons have been very difficult considering my health challenges. My focus is to give myself the time and space to fully heal and enjoy life to the fullest once again."
Toews, 35, was limited to just 53 games last season -- producing 15 goals and 31 points -- because of deteriorating health midway through the season. At the time, Toews said he had "no choice but to step back and concentrate on getting healthy" in the final season of his eight-year, $84 million contract.
That raised questions about Toews' future in Chicago -- or elsewhere -- in seasons to come. Blackhawks general manager Kyle Davidson didn't wait long after Chicago's season ended in April to confirm Toews' deal would not be renewed, making him a UFA on July 1.
Toews had spent the entirety of his 15 NHL seasons with the Blackhawks after they drafted him third overall in 2006. He served as the team's captain from 2008 to 2023 and was part of three Stanley Cup championship runs in 2010, 2013 and 2015. He leaves the organization with 372 goals and 883 points in 1067 career games.
He was still one of the league's premier centers when, in late December 2020, Chicago revealed its captain would be out indefinitely while dealing with an undisclosed illness. Toews wound up missing the entire COVID-shortened 2020-21 campaign before announcing in June 2021 that he'd been diagnosed with chronic immune response syndrome and would return for the 2021-22 season.
A subsequent antibody test also showed Toews had carried the COVID-19 virus at one point. That would later lead to him being slowed by long COVID symptoms.
"Along the way, I have met several people who have struggled with health issues pertaining to long COVID ... and other cases that are quite complex," Toews said in his post. "I now recognize the importance of one day sharing the details of my health journey with you all."
Toews made another social media missive earlier Thursday, thanking the Blackhawks' organization and fans for their support over his years with the team.
"It's hard to find words to describe the 16-year journey that has made this city my home," Toews said. "... It was surreal to witness and be a part of the revival of hockey in Chicago.
"To all of you, I say THANK YOU. You made my time here in Chicago unforgettable."