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Steen has two teams to cheer for

Thomas Steen won’t set himself up to be the bad guy, so he’s refusing to choose sides.

The former Winnipeg Jets centre, and father of St. Louis Blues winger Alex Steen, is going to keep his jerseys at home tonight and wear a business suit to Bell MTS Place instead.

The reality is the guy can’t lose.

“I’m just going to watch this series, because it’s true — I’m in the second round already,” Steen said Tuesday evening, grinning widely as he took a few minutes to chat at the downtown rink before attending an NHL draft-lottery fan event. “Either one, it doesn’t matter. These are the teams I follow.

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Thomas Steen won’t set himself up to be the bad guy, so he’s refusing to choose sides.

The former Winnipeg Jets centre, and father of St. Louis Blues winger Alex Steen, is going to keep his jerseys at home tonight and wear a business suit to Bell MTS Place instead.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p>
<p>Former Winnipeg Jets star Thomas Steen clutches a St. Louis Blues jersey bearing his son Alex’s number Tuesday.</p>
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JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Former Winnipeg Jets star Thomas Steen clutches a St. Louis Blues jersey bearing his son Alex’s number Tuesday.

The reality is the guy can’t lose.

“I’m just going to watch this series, because it’s true — I’m in the second round already,” Steen said Tuesday evening, grinning widely as he took a few minutes to chat at the downtown rink before attending an NHL draft-lottery fan event. “Either one, it doesn’t matter. These are the teams I follow.

“I’m just going to watch the series and enjoy it. It feels good.”

Alex Steen is in his 14th season in the NHL, his 11th wearing a Blues jersey. He’s scored 238 goals and 605 points in 963 career games, the first 253 with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the team that drafted him in the first round (24th overall) in the 2002 NHL entry draft.

Alex Steen was born in Winnipeg in March 1984, at a time when his father was suiting up in his third of 14 seasons (1981-1995) with the Jets 1.0. Thomas Steen would go on to play 950 career NHL games, netting 264 goals and adding 553 assists.

Thomas, a former Winnipeg city councillor, admitted he’s got the Jets logo tattooed on his heart, but those sentiments conflict with some deep paternal instincts.

He didn’t foresee a Jets-Blues post-season matchup because he didn’t expect the Jets to tumble from first place in the Central Division down the stretch. 

“I didn’t think about it much until the very end. When the Jets lost that point in Colorado, that’s when I thought, ‘S—-, it looks like they’re going to play,’’’ he said, laughing.

Winnipeg built a 2-0 lead on the Avalanche in Denver on Thursday, but let it slip away, losing 3-2 when defenceman Erik Johnson scored at 1:49 of overtime.

Alex Steen is pencilled in on the red-hot Blues’ fourth line with centre Ivan Barbashev and winger Zach Sanford. He’s fought through a couple of injuries this season, including a bothersome shoulder, scoring 10 goals and 27 points in 65 games, his most meagre production since the lockout-shortened 2013 season.

But he scored a pair of goals in St. Louis’ second-last game of the year, a 7-3 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers this past Thursday, and his ice time was inching up near the 15-minute mark again the final few games.

Thomas said his son calls him to talk “after the bad ones.”

“He just wants to vent somewhere safe,” the elder Steen said. “There’s not much I can tell him. He’s had a lot going on this year, but he hasn’t slowed down. I’m not worried about his play at all.”

This incarnation of the Jets will wage its first-ever post-season battle with the Blues. Thomas Steen was a rookie when Winnipeg’s NHL team hooked up with St. Louis in a first-round Norris Division best-of-five series in 1982.

The Blues dispatched the Jets in four games. That season, the Jets improved by 45 points over the previous one —  the historically brutal 9-57-14 finish of the 1980-81 campaign — but fell apart against the Blues, led by Brian Sutter, who scored seven goals in four games while playing on a line with Joe Mullen and Bernie Federko.

“That was really disappointing after we had a really good year,” Thomas recalled. “But we weren’t the same team that showed up in the playoffs.”

jason.bell@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPJasonBell

Jason Bell
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