Posted by: kristagolden | July 29, 2012

The Origins of Toewsbot Unit 19-C

Emma and I began to call Jonathan Toews “Toewsbot” during last season because he basically shows no emotions like a robot. But based on the story I wrote this weekend, there might be more to that. Here is our story of how Toewsbot came to being. Enjoy. – K

Deep in the recesses of the Hockey Hall of Fame, below the exhibits and plaques, there lies a laboratory so secretive in nature that only a select few know of its existence. It was here in early 1987 that a group of computer scientists and robotics experts collaborated to make a Canadian version of the “perfect hockey player.” They wanted their own cybernetic unit similar to the Lidstrom Unit that Sweden had created with great success. The Canadians, wanting not to upstage the Lidstrom model but to copy it, began building their own with one exception: they decided to age the unit the way a human ages.

The unit was unique in that its status as an android was beyond society’s definitions: it would have human functioning in every way, even eating, experiencing “injury” and sexual relations. As the unit would be used within the sport of ice hockey, it would be given certain programs to learn the sport as human children would. The aging process would give the scientists the chance to upgrade and update the unit’s hard drive to reflect its length of activation.

As they planned an elaborate upgrading schedule that would allow for “puberty” and other growth changes, they began an intensive search for a couple who would be willing to “raise” the unit as they would raise their own child. They soon found one in the form of Bryan Toews and his wife Andrée, who lived in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The couple presented the cybernetic team with a unique setting for the “upbringing” of the unit because the “maternal unit” was Quebecois and wanted their children to speak fluent French. A program was added to the unit to accommodate this.

After almost a year of work, the unit designated “Jonathan Bryan Toews” was formally activated on April 29, 1988. The “baby” was immediately loved by the Toews family, who expanded to include a human child two years after the Toews Unit’s activation. The group of scientists kept in close contact with the family, upgrading and updating the unit as it “grew”. When the unit was sent to Shattuck-St. Mary’s for education and hockey training, the upgrades and updates became more long-term, as they did when the unit was later accepted into the University of North Dakota. As the unit’s hockey knowledge grew, the program “Critical Thinking: Ice Hockey” was executed with great success, and the unit was drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in 2006. Training staff was told of the nature of the unit, now dubbed Toews Unit 19 for his assigned number on the Blackhawks, and they agreed to work closely with the cybernetic team in Toronto for necessary upgrades and adjustments. Even though he is technically not a robot but a fully functioning cybernetic unit, the training staff has nicknamed it Toewsbot or Toewsbot Unit 19.

In 2008 Toewsbot Unit 19 was given a C designation after being named captain of the Blackhawks, much like the Lidstrom Unit (or Lidstrom Unit 5) was given a C designation in 2006. As with human hockey players, Toewsbot Unit has experienced “injury” including two “concussions”, which is actually the result of a corruption of the hard drive. In such cases the unit will experience the symptoms of a concussion.

Toewsbot Unit 19-C has been given a program that makes it fully aware of its existence as a cybernetic unit, but it has not been executed, thus making the unit believe that it is human.


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