I’m not writing this post to be accusational, and I have no inside knowledge of the story whatsoever, but just come with me for a quick walk here. Was the weirdest story of the 2011-2012 NHL season not the Jonathan Toews one-man car crash that went *poof* in a cloud of ninja smoke and just…never happened? (Yes, I waited for the off-season to throw out this question.)

It was crazy how little we heard about why it happened, and just how much we heard about Toews’ condition. Obviously his health was the most important thing, but after he turned out to be “good,” I was ready to move from “the most important thing” to “what the hell happened there?”

Here’s the first story I read that day about how it happened:

From Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune, the Blackhawks excellent beat writer:

The police report said Toews, who declined medical treatment, was not injured and no citations were written, although the wreck caused property damage. Toews was driving southbound on Garvey Court when he turned left onto eastbound Lake Street and struck the “L” track pillar. He had no passengers in the car, which was towed from the scene.

Earlier in the post, Kuc says Toews “clipped” the support beam. Look at the picture at the top of this post. Dude hit that beam SQUARE. Like, usually if you’re about to hit something, you’re turning out of the way and it’s on one side of the car. He didn’t so much as scratch a headlight. Did he even know he was about to hit it?

From Adam L. Jahns and Mark Konkol of the Chicago Sun-Times:

Toews made a left turn from southbound Garvey Court on to east bound Lake Street. While merging into the right lane, Toews’ car struck the steel beam, Chicago police said. No citations were issued in the one-car crash. Toews was not administered a field sobriety test and refused medical treatment, police said. The vehicle was towed from the scene, police said.

I know nothing about that part of town, the traffic patterns there, nothing. But it was a single car crash that was a direct hit on a pillar. Something obviously went awry, and it feels like nobody even bothered to ask what.

Almost every piece of writing I saw included something along the lines of Toews being contacted via text (I believe the text exchange was with Kuc of the Tribune), and JT responding “It’s nothing serious at all. I’m good.”

Oh, okay, moving on then.

But details were murky that morning.

Here’s a post from NESN entitled “Report: Jonathan Toews Taken Away by Ambulance After Car Crash, While Police Held Back Autograph Seekers.”

Toews was driving his black AMG Mercedes-Benz and crashed into a support beam, according to CBS Chicago. The report indicates he was taken away in an ambulance and police had to stop passers-by from videotaping, taking pictures and asking Toews for autographs.

Wait, but I thought he “refused medical treatment?” That doesn’t sound very ambulance-y-y. I believe that’s the complete opposite of “no medical attention,” unless it was just a quick alternative to a cab. Maybe they took him home?

And I remember that discussion on Twitter that morning, about how gross it was that people were trying to get his autograph while he was being put in an ambulance. But then…apparently he didn’t leave in an ambulance?

The Blackhawks denied it that day, saying Toews didn’t leave in an ambulance (I can’t find their exact statement, but their denial is mentioned on a large number of credible websites, and I believe Kuc confirmed their denial on Twitter).

Here’s from the CBS report mentioned in the NESN post:

“I saw his car in the pole,” Theron Banks, an employee at Steak Express said. “I came out. People were everywhere. Toews was in the ambulance. People were videotaping and taking pictures and trying to get autographs, but police said they couldn’t get autographs.”

Banks said Toews was alone and left in the ambulance. The Blackhawks deny that he left in an ambulance, but a security guard who did not want to provide his name, also said Toews left in the ambulance.

So the club came out and said that he didn’t leave in an ambulance at the time, which came off as even more fishy.

Why were people lying about the ambulance and autographs if the Hawks were being honest? And if the Hawks weren’t being honest, well what the shit was going on there?

I’m not trying to play gumshoe here, it just boggles me how quickly this disappeared with nary a question or a hypothesis. I’m just laying out what happened and trying to piece together some type of theory (wait, that’s like, the direct definition of playing gumshoe. Busted. …By me.)

Possible reasons it happened, and bear with me here – spitballing:

* He was under the influence of something. Highly unlikely (it was 9:22 a.m., after all), but these are just some possibilities.

* He was concussed at the time, maybe he was having some spatial issues, depth perception problems, or too many stimuli just got to him.

* He was texting or something else stupid – dropped a wrapper and went to pick up? – and the support beam caught him not looking like Willie Mitchell at centre ice.

* He got cut-off, I dunno. Maybe the pole moved.

Now try to list the reasons it’s completely normal for someone to run headlong into a pole and not have an explanation for it?

* Embarrassment. (For seeing it, nothing happening, and hitting it? I think his career has shown he’s a bit more adept at avoiding objects than that.)

* …..


In Toews case, “Yeah, he totally just drove into that pole, but don’t worry, he’s fine, he’ll play soon. Yes, his concussion is improving. No, I’m not worried about our goaltending” was a good enough explanation, apparently.

I know this is awfully “conspiracy theory” of me – hey, it’s the off-season here – but something about it feels cover-up-y-ish. Smoke bomb, poof, nothing to see here. He’s not at the hospital, not at the rink, he’s just…good.

Am I taking crazy pills here, or does about the situation smell a little peculiar? Did the police let him go for something because he is who he is? Or was it just one of those run-of-the-mill pole-run-intos that we all have in our Mercedes every now and again?

The Toews Car Crash is my Area 51. I just want to know what really went down.

Comments (32)

  1. I think it went away because everyone knew he had a concussion. We all know it’s the elephant in the room for everyone involved in hockey pretty much. Regardless if that’s the actual problem that’s the conclusion everyone came to and the cops let him get slide on it being that he wasnt “hurt” and didn’t involve other people.

    As a resident yeah – you don’t hit an El pole without being on drugs normally. They don’t exactly blend in with the road way. Maybe there was a lost puppy he swerved to avoid and he’s just keeping it under wraps…

  2. I’m guessing it was either explanation 2 – he had a concussion (which we later found out was more serious than initially though), shouldn’t have been driving, his depth perception was messed up and he hit the pole. Or explanation 3 – he was texting or on the phone or something and hit the pole.

    Speaking from experience a concussion can mess you up. I had one in high school, felt fine for a week and then one morning woke up and literally couldn’t walk straight for about two hours. You would have legitimately thought I was drunk if you saw me walk down the street that morning, so you can only imagine what I would have hit if I had been behind the wheel of a car.

  3. Thought about this too. Maybe he was hung over. But he had his concussion so I don’t think he would be drinking, but then again i saw him at a chicago bar and so did my friend on separate occasion while he was going through is concussion ( don’t know if he drank)
    Maybe he just didn’t see it.
    The ambulance thing is odd. Blackhawks probably didn’t want to make a big deal about it because he was fine.

  4. I love Chicago and I think Toews is a top-5 player and top-3 leader/captain in the league. That said, Chicago is arguably the country’s most corrupt and shady major metropolitan area. This think wreaks of scandal. Rumor has it that Chicago went out of its way to protect Michael Jordan from his Tiger Woodsesque behavior; why not extend the courtesy for Toews’ troubles, too?

    • Because my OCD trends this way: the word you want there is “reeks”, as in “smells strongly”. “Wreaks” means “inflict”.

      But I agree with you about Chicago. It’s one of those places where connections can just make problems go away.

      Though, in this case, I’m not sure it’s some sort of conspiracy. The ‘hawks owner (well-connected in the city, obviously) could just have told his fellows at City Hall, “Oh, Toews’ concussion is worse than anybody thought,” and they dropped the issue.

      ’cause, y’know, he’s a guy from the neighborhood, right?

  5. Obviously he just got off a Grand Theft Auto all night jag and thought he’d be able cheat code spawn a new Bugatti on the spot. And then he snapped out of it.

  6. Professional athlete.
    Won city a championship.
    Makes $6 million a year.

    • Nothing to see here, move along.

    • While Toews doesn’t seem like the type of person to drive around drunk (especially at 9 in the morning) the fact that he wasn’t given a sobriety test after crashing directly into a pillar seems rather curious. Wouldn’t a sobriety test be normal procedure in such a situation?

  7. After going to Chicago for the first time this past weekend by the way the photo looks and spending most of my time in the “Loop” area of the L Train, this is very fishy. Concussion side effects seem the most obvious but the cover up, lies and denials are strange..

  8. I have to agree with Greg here. I had a pretty serious concussion in college, and the symptoms were all over the place. I’d feel fine for a few days, and then suddenly the next day I’d barely be able to walk straight.

    Toews had probably had a good few days and assumed — obviously incorrectly — that he was okay to drive. I don’t think there’s any real scandal here beyond the Blackhawks trying to keep the severity of his concussion secret. It doesn’t read to me like anyone trying to “cover up” any indiscretions on Toews’ part, but rather the Hawks trying to keep a lid on a story that would raise more questions about how seriously he was injured. (And maybe why they weren’t doing a better job of overseeing his recovery.)

  9. I’d say there’s actually a fairly good chance that he really just didn’t see the pole until it was too late. Garvey is basically a pass-through from Lower Wacker (dark, underground) onto the surface-level streets inside the loop. Lake, with the L tracks running directly above it, is particularly surreal to drive down – it can feel a lot like you’re playing a game with slightly over-wrought “3-D” effects. Also, it was during the morning commute, so add in a ton of people walking to work at that time (and crossing Lake wherever they damned well feel like it, since it’s one-way at that point). For someone with a concussion, it sounds pretty plausible that the change in light levels combined with the number of distractions to track (and possibly the noise of a train going overhead) could lead to something like this happening. He’s probably lucky that he hit a pole and not one of the aforementioned jaywalkers. Sure it’s possible that he was distracted by his phone/the radio/whatever, but let’s just say that there’s a reason I try to avoid Lower Wacker as much as possible. Concussion or not, those are NOT optimal driving conditions.

    Also, isn’t it pretty common to get checked out and/or receive minor treatment from the paramedics while sitting in the back of the ambulance, but not actually go to the hospital? That part doesn’t sound particularly scandalous. What DOES strike me as strange is the fact he was driving at all. If anything in this situation is worthy of investigation, it’s probably the doctor that let him think that was a good idea (or the fact that he decided that he knew better than the doctor who told him it wasn’t).

    • I think Cr hit the nail on the head. My guess is that there is a cover up from the Hawks organization to save face that they didn’t diagnose Toew’s concussion enough and Dr’s gave him the go ahead to drive. Then this happens. The conflicting reports of whether he left in an ambulance or not is a strange thing. Maybe some saw him being checked out by the paramedics and just thought that’s how he ended up leaving.

      As far as no citations. . .my guess is because he is who he is and plays for who he plays for. We see this often in all pro sports. Because your “insert all-star name” you get a free pass.

  10. I saw the Google Maps link on twitter…If he lost control and and hit the furthest pole instead of the closest, I could maybe believe he wasn’t driving recklessly. But to hit the closer pole dead on? Looks to me like he was trying to beat an oncoming car and gunned it right into the pole.

  11. Obviously Danny Heatley was driving but snuck away before the cops got there.

  12. But even after his accident Toews still drove his chevy. So that wouldn’t really make sense if he was having really bad concussion symptoms that caused him to get into the accident he would stop driving, right?

  13. You know too much. Men in suits will knock on your door in 3…2…1….

  14. Or, Bourne, maybe Toews had a pretty crazy sneeze. Think about it. OK, maybe not. But seriously, the slightest feeling of having to sneeze while driving freaks me the hell out. That’s, like, 2-4 seconds (depending on how big the sneeze is) I’m completely helpless and not in control.

    I can’t be alone on this, right? Right???

  15. I know this wasn’t really the point of the article, but I still think Dustin Penner injures back while digging into his wife’s pancakes takes the title of weirdest incident of the 11-12 season.

  16. ” I just want to know what really went down.”
    A guy got in a car accident. Why? Gee, perhaps the concussion.

    Conflicting reports moments after the incident? Oh my, it almost seems like different media had different sources before they spread gossip on twitter/etc without being there or confirming facts. It happens.
    Really, organizations are more shady about run-of-the-mill on ice injuries (especially during the playoffs) than this.

    Anyway, the real truth is that Toews is Batman: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=StjeJWVQXB4

  17. What do you think the media would have done with this story if it was Kane and not Toews?

  18. Clearly, he was trying to re-enact the chase scene from The Dark Knight.

  19. He blinked. Only happens once a season or so… he’s not used to it.

  20. He probably took his eyes off the road and screwed up. The majority of car accidents occur this way.

  21. Most of this seems like reporters getting the story wrong, initially, than a cover-up. Driving on Lake Street at any time can be dicey–the poles from the el tracks are not just on the periphery of the driving lanes, but they also separate the driving lanes and turning lanes. Often, you’ll see people turning from the driving lines or just sweeping into the turn lane at the last moment (especially if there are cars parked). Add to those facts that a lot of people drive like maniacs downtown and probably an error on Toews’ part and…fender-bender.

  22. CR nailed it above. Not sure what the “scandal” is here. At the time, I worked a half a block from the accident site. Hundreds of morning commuters, people crossing the street where and when they feel like it, lots of cabs and cyclists and whatever. Perhaps he was texting, or shuffling through his iPod or something, but I think the last factor would be drugs or alcohol. I agree he was liking looking the other direction, hurrying to beat traffic or a pedestrian, and turned into the nearest pole.

    The only “cover-up” is the ambulance situation, but I’d bet that he was getting checked out and they either offered to drive the celebrity athlete home so they had something to tell the wife, or he got checked and went home himself. Of course the or-gan-i-zation would find it in their best interests to keep accusations about the most revered and respected captain with the Boy Scout reputation to a minimum, and given his recent concussion keep that speculation out of opponents’ hands as well. It all adds up on my end, and I’m no gumshoe.

    And Penner’s pancakes are DEFINITELY weirder.

  23. since he was only a couple of blocks from the court house, i’m betting he was reenacting the chase scene from the blues brothers and didn’t have the cop tires and cop suspension that jake and elwood had. he was on a mission from God. “it’s 106 miles to chicago, we’ve got a full tank of gas, a half a pack of cigarettes, it;s dark and we’re wearing sunglasses…….hit it”. also with a concussion you shouldn’t be wearing sunglasses when it’s dark outside

  24. Merc AMG? ….Maybe he simply took the traction control off and pressed hard with his right foot…followed by tight pucker sensation at base of seat

  25. Maybe the ambulance dropped him away from the scene to get him away from the gawkers / autograph seekers. You can see them showing up automatically after a crash, checking him out, deciding he was fine, and offering to bust him out of the scene rather than leave him to fend for himself… Do the Hawks have a building round there?

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