From the first day he arrived in Manitoba, Thomas Steen believed he was part "of something important."
In fact, while many people throughout the National Hockey League - the Eastern media especially - loved to make fun of "small-market" Winnipeg, often suggesting it was hockey's version of the "Siberian salt mines." Thomas Steen loved every minute of his career with the Winnipeg Jets.
"From the time I first began playing hockey in Sweden, my dream was to play in the NHL, in the best league in the world, and to live and play in North America," said the Jets former captain and 14-year veteran. "And when I was drafted by the Jets, I was ecstatic.
"There was camaraderie in Winnipeg that just wasn't the same anywhere else. It was a great place to play. The fans were outstanding. My teammates were my friends. Our wives had a great group that fund raised for local charities and hung out together when we were on the road.
"Despite what you might have heard, despite what some big market media types would have you believe, Winnipeg was a wonderful place to play."
To many in the big markets, Steen was an almost anonymous player who was little more than "that Swede out in Winnipeg," but to Jets fans, there was no one tougher, no one more skilled, no one more dedicated than the undersized centre from Tockmark, Sweden.
Steen's numbers speak for themselves. He played 14 seasons in the NHL, all with the Jets. He had 264 goals and 553 assists and while he always answered the bell for his native Sweden when the country came calling for international competitions, he finished his career by making Winnipeg his home.
For "Tre Krona," he won silver medals at the 1981 and 1986 world championships and another silver at the 1984 Canada Cup, but it was his play with the Jets that earned him a reputation as the consummate team player and a true emotional leader. In fact, his No. 25 and Bobby Hull's No. 9 are the only two numbers that were ever retired during the Jets' 26-year history.
Thomas Steen is also a member of the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame and the Winnipeg Jets Hockey Hall of Fame.