Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Thomas Steen: 6 Autographed Cards

When I was a kid, I was a Québec Nordiques and Edmonton Oilers fan above all, especially for their all-out offensive prowess - but my favourite hockey player was the Montréal Canadiens' star goalie Patrick Roy. I'm full of contradictions like that.

Back in the day, not all regular-season games were televised, and my parents didn't let me watch complete games on week nights on TV anyway - but those we attended at the old Montréal Forum, I got to see until the end. Saturday nights, however, CBC showed double-or-triple-headers of at least one Canadian team per game, and I could watch at least half of a Oilers game regularly. Often those games were against other Canadian team, and the Winnipeg Jets were certainly one of them.

I wasn't a fan of the Jets per se - I found their uniforms boring, I had a disdain for their small-market city, they never had particularly good goalies... but on the strength of Dale Hawerchuk, Thomas Steen, Teppo Numminen and Phil Housley - and later Teemu Selanne - they sure could score some pretty goals. They'd often lose to the Oilers in the playoffs, but those made for some terrific games, much more than when the Habs would face the Hartford Whalers or Buffalo Sabres...

Even before my time, they started off in the WHA with a scoring legend, Bobby 'The Golden Jet' Hull as the face of their franchise...

And despite all of Hawerchuk's abilities and his multiple 100-point seasons, Steen, to me, was always the heart of the franchise, their version of the Ottawa Senators' Daniel Alfredsson - not exactly ''the best'', but definitely the hardest-working, most consistent, best under pressure, most reliable. Ahead of his time, his ability to consistently put points up on the board (usually in his team's top-3 point getters) while not getting any scored when he was on the ice would make him the prototype of today's ever-so-important ''top-6 center'', like Tomas Plekanec, Ryan Kesler, Patrice Bergeron and Pavel Datsyuk. He was so important to the Jets that they named him co-captain (with Hawerchuk) in 1989, a capacity in which he served until 1991.

A native of Sweden, Thomas Steen loved Winnipeg so much that not only did he choose to stay there after his playing career of 14 NHL seasons - all in Winnipeg - and 4 more in Germany, and even got involved in the political process, first losing an election at the federal level, now a councilman at the municipal level. Unlike Peter Stastny, though, who represented Canada in various tournaments, Steen played for Sweden internationally, winning a silver medal at the World Juniors (1978), two World Junior bronze medals (1979 and 1980) an two silver medals at the World Championships (1980 and 1986). He also played in three Canada Cup competitions - ancestors to the World Cup - in 1981, 1984 and 1991.

His son Alexander Steen plays for the St. Louis Blues; I also sent him a fan letter this season, so we'll see how that pans out... As for Thomas, I sent him these 6 cards along with a fan letter around February 20th, 2013, and got them all back signed in black sharpie on May 27th, 2013. Let's have a look, starting with the oldest cards:
The card on the left is from Pro Set's 1991-92 Pro Set Series 1 set (card #271), while the one on the right is from Topps' 1992-93 Topps collection (card #141); both show Steen wearing the Jets' white (home) uniform, with either the captain's 'C' or the alternate captain's 'A'. He's got the NHL's 75th anniversary logo on the Topps one.

The next two show him wearing the Jets' dark (purple, away) uniform:
The card on the left is from Upper Deck's 1993-94 Series 1 set (card #166), while the one on the right is from Fleer's 1993-94 Fleer Ultra set (card #69). He's wearing the 'A' on both cards, with the Stanley Cup playoffs patch on his chest, and the Goals For Kids - a Jets charity - logo on his left shoulder.

They took the 'A' away from him for the next two cards, for a season in which the captain was rising star Keith Tkachuk:
The card on the left is from Upper Deck's 1994-95 Parkhurst set (card #263), drinking from a Gatorade bottle, now sporting a visor full-time. The card on the right is from Pinnacle Brands' 1994-95 Score (card #65) and shows him covering former Chicago Blackhawks legend Denis Savard, then playing with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

A prolific producer, Steen finished with 8 seasons at or near the point-per-game mark, ending with 259 goals, 543 assists and 802 points in 919 regular-season games, and 44 points in 52 playoff NHL games. As you can see, his hands did more than just collect points: he has great penmanship as well!

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