NHL return sweet for ’Toban hockey stars

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:04 PM ET

Alexander Steen was 11 years old when his father's jersey was retired at the event known as The Funeral, which was basically the beginning of the end for the Winnipeg Jets.

Jonathan Toews had just turned seven when the Save the Jets rallies were taking place, and they had a significant impact on the young Winnipeg hockey player.

"I remember asking my dad why we didn't help the team or buy the team," the Chicago Blackhawks captain said. "Back in the day I didn't really understand, obviously, but I was definitely sad to see them go."

For NHLers like Steen and Toews, not to mention every Manitoban who shed tears when the Jets left 15 years ago, the return of the league's top hockey league brings them joy.

It's a little unique for them, however, considering they will be coming back to their hometown as the enemy, but that doesn't mean they won't look forward to playing at MTS Centre.

"I won't complain about it," Toews said.

Steen and Toews are two of about 25 Manitobans who will get a chance to play in front of family and friends in their home province. Steen and his St. Louis Blues will be coming to Winnipeg to win, but he will always defend his hometown.

He hears it from fellow players about the winters, and he doesn't disagree.

"I grew up in Winnipeg, so I know what it's like, but I could see how people might view Winnipeg from the outside looking in. It is cold. They're not exaggerating about how cold it is. It's (really) cold," he said.

"(But) it is a fun town. It's a really good town, especially when you get to know the people. It's a big enough town where there's a lot of stuff to do. There's a lot of cool concerts that come in to Winnipeg. It doesn't get overlooked, especially with the new building."

Steen believes all the stars are aligned for the NHL to work this time around, and, sounding a bit like his city councillor father, said it will even make the quality of life better in the Manitoba capital.

"Winnipeg is a natural hockey town, and they'll embrace it," said Steen, whose dad Thomas was a Jets great. "It's going to rejuvenate Winnipeg a little bit. People are going to get a lot more excited about regular-day stuff just because there's a team back."

Steen left little doubt as to what he thinks the team should be named.

"You know what I want, but I don't know if it's possible," he said. "There's a lot of tradition in Winnipeg with the Jets. The jerseys and the logos were amazing. I still think they're one of the better jerseys in the league.

"There's a lot of passion in Winnipeg towards hockey, and there's no doubt they'll make it work. And even if they do choose a different name, it will grow on people."

kirk.penton@sunmedia.ca


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