Thomas Steen was the fifth ever draft pick of the Jets 1.0 when Winnipeg selected him in the fifth round (103rd overall) in the 1979 NHL Draft. The product of Grums, Sweden made his NHL debut in the 1981-82 seasons and posted double digit totals for goals, assists and points for 13 straight seasons, highlighted by an 84 and 88-point campaigns in 1984-85 and 1988-89, respectively. Steen played his final NHL season in 1994-95 and finished with 817 points (264G, 553A) in 950 regular season games with another 44 points (12G, 32A) in 56 playoff games. He had the most assists, games played and playoff games in Jets 1.0 history and the second-most goals, points, playoff assists, and playoff points. Steen was the first player in the NHL history of the Jets 1.0 franchise to have his number retired when his "25" was raised to the rafters on May 6, 1995. He played another four seasons in Sweden and Germany, while also helping to bring the Manitoba Moose to Winnipeg and then he returned to the NHL as a scout for the Minnesota Wild, Anaheim Ducks and Phoenix Coyotes. More recently, Steen ran in a federal election in 2008 before he was elected to Winnipeg City Council for Elmwood-East Kildonan in 2010 and he has worked for True North Sports + Entertainment in various capacities, including his current role in scouting and alumni relations.
Thomas Steen didn't grow up watching the National Hockey League, but he recalls his first few ice sessions with the Winnipeg Jets in 1981 vividly.
"The intensity and the toughness that was in the NHL was a little bit overwhelming in the beginning," Steen said, comparing the league to the Swedish Hockey League, where he had spent his last five seasons.
"You had to get with it real quick because there are a lot of guys competing for their jobs. There was no time to sit and think about it."
So, he didn't.
He relied on teammates and family to help him adjust to a new league and a new city.
He knew a bit about Winnipeg from his cousin, Dan LaBraaten, who played for the WHA's Winnipeg Jets from 1976 until 1978.
"They had a bunch of Swedes on that team. I knew a bit of that," Steen recalled. "Willy Lindstrom was on the team. He was from my hometown. He's a bit older than me but we got along great. He and his wife were a lot of help when I first came."
Everything was different for Steen, who was just 21-years-old when he played his first season in the NHL.
When I first heard it, I felt really honoured and humbled. When I heard I was doing it with Randy (Carlyle), it felt twice as good.THOMAS STEEN
He not only had to adjust to the size of the ice, but he also had to get other aspects of his life in order away from the rink.
"At first I didn't know a whole lot. It wasn't like today where they televise the NHL all over the world. I had to learn from the beginning," Steen said. "My English wasn't great, so it took a bit of learning and finding out who I was playing against. Just to learn how things work in Canada. Even getting a phone and an apartment was totally different from where I grew up."
He scored 15 times in his first season and had 44 points in 73 games. From then on he was a mainstay in the Jets line-up, finishing his 14-season NHL career with 950 games and 817 points only wearing Jets colours.
Numbers like that earned him a spot in the Winnipeg Jets Hall of Fame.
"When I first heard it, I felt really honoured and humbled," Steen said. "When I heard I was doing it with Randy (Carlyle), it felt twice as good."
Steen and Carlyle's relationship was important to both players on and off the ice.
"It was great because we had kids the same age," Steen said, adding both families lived in the River Heights area. "We played over 10 years together. On the team together, we were the captains for the team. We had the mix of Europeans and the North Americans."
The two even served as co-captains for two seasons between 1989 and 1981.
"I was more of a quiet leader and leading by example on the ice. I wasn't the off the ice guy," Steen said. "Randy was more the guy in the dressing room. It worked out pretty good. We switched game after game."
Which reminds Steen of one of his favourite hockey stories.
"I remember before a game when I had the 'C' on my jersey, but it was on velcro. They used to switch them around, but this one game, they forgot to put the 'C' on the right jersey," Steen said, his laugh noticeable in his voice.
The person who noticed was Craig Heisinger, the current the General Manager of the Manitoba Moose and Assistant General Manager of the Winnipeg Jets. At the time of Steen's story, Heisinger was the Equipment Manager for the Jets, a position he held for 11 seasons before moving to the management side.
"I'm sitting on the bench and 'Zinger came up from behind me and takes the 'C' and rips it off me in front of the whole arena and puts an 'A' on it," Steen laughed. "He gave the 'C' to Randy."
After Steen's final season in the NHL came to an end in 1995, he played four seasons in Germany to wrap up his playing career.
During the 2000-01 season, he served his first of seven seasons as a scout for the Minnesota Wild. He spent one campaign as a pro scout for the Phoenix Coyotes in 2008-09, before re-joining the organization in Winnipeg in 2019-20 as a scout for the Manitoba Moose.
Steen also has a role on the alumni side of things with the Jets. He was happy to put on the jersey during the alumni game at the 2016 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic and - naturally - beating the Edmonton Oilers that particular afternoon felt pretty good as well.
Steen can't wait to step on the ice one more time to see his name join the likes of Ulf Nilsson, Anders Hedberg, Bobby Hull, Ab McDonald, Lars-Erik Sjoberg, and Dale Hawerchuk in the rafters at Bell MTS Place alongside his good buddy Randy Carlyle.
"It's great," Steen said. "It feels very fitting that we could do this together."