WINNIPEG -- When Jonathan Toews brought the Stanley Cup to Winnipeg in the summer of 2010, the city renamed the Dakota Community Center in his honor. Friday, when the Chicago Blackhawks captain brought the Cup to the arena that now bears his name, he may have received an even greater honor.
In front of hundreds of locals clamoring for an opportunity to meet Toews and see the Cup, Chicago's star center was introduced by another Winnipeg hockey legend. Longtime Winnipeg Jets star Thomas Steen, who now serves as a city councilor in the area, did not mince words as he welcomed Toews to the stage.
"You are making everybody here proud," Steen told the two-time Cup winner in front of the cheering crowd. "Many young kids come here filled with the same dreams you once had and can sit in the same locker room carrying the same dreams."
Steen played all of his 14 NHL seasons with the original Jets (now the Phoenix Coyotes) and remains among the franchise leaders in most offensive categories. He has been a fixture in the area for more than three decades, and his words were no small praise coming from a player who grew up in Sweden but became a legend in Winnipeg.
Steen said he first heard about Toews long before the rest of the hockey world. His agent, the late Don Baizley, alerted Steen about a 15-year-old phenom in the local community. According to Baizley, the young Toews had the potential to become one of the best Manitoba-born players ever.
A decade later, Steen said he believes Toews has far exceeded those expectations.
"I've been scouting, coaching and managing," said Steen, whose son Alexander faces Toews as a member of the St. Louis Blues. "I would say you're one of the most complete players in the history of the game."
At the very least, he's good enough to have a community center named after him.