One thing about living in Hawaii is when I wake up at 6 a.m. everyone in the central time zone is thinking about lunch. On Thursday the 17th of January I had an interview at 8 AM scheduled with former NHL defenseman Rick Zombo. I wanted to get set up early and do a sound and video check. My production assistant, Brett Freeland would be here at 7 a.m. to run the soundboard.
So, I am up at 5 a.m.
The first thing I see is an alert on my phone informing me that Alexander Steen, left-wing for the Blues had announced his retirement from the NHL after 15 seasons, 1018 games, 245 goals, 377 assists, 622 points, and one Stanley Cup ring, due to a back injury.
Two thoughts went through my mind. First, now we know what his injury is and just how bad it really was. Then, I thought what next?
What is the next move for GM Doug Armstrong? What is the next step for the Blues players? Finally, what is next for Alex Steen?
Doug Armstrong has been the GM of the Blues since 2010. He knows how to keep his cards hidden and he only shows them when he must. Alexander Steen’s retirement affects the salary cap in a couple of different ways: the amount of cap relief the Blues will receive depends on when he is placed on Long-Term Injured Reserve (LTIR). Armstrong addressed this saying, “It does not have to be spent in the next 48 hours.” He also stated that the LTIR formula is complicated and depends on when he qualifies for LTIR. Tom Franklin of the Lst Word on Sports explains it here. Whether he goes on LTIR during training camp or during the season or not, the cap-strapped team will have some money to play within this weird COVID era.
Steen has been with the Blues for 11 years, according to Armstrong, he was a “…leader in and out of that locker room.” Armstrong has also referenced several of Steen’s former teammates, backing up this claim of leadership. The current locker room has lost Jay Bouwmeester, Jake Allen and Alex Pietrangelo, along with Vladimir Tarasenko being out till at least February 2021 because of 3 shoulder surgeries. Regardless of which way you slice it, he has a lot of veteran leadership and voices that need to be filled. Ryan O’Reilly is the “defacto”leader on this team and his work ethic is legendary. There is no question that he will shape this locker room for years to come with or without the “C”.
The first two questions we will get answers to very soon. The third, what is next for Alexander Steen? May take a while to answer.
In some way, I know what is going through his mind right now. He is in his mid-30’s and tomorrow he no longer gets to do the thing he has done for much of his life. Steen is from a hockey family. His father is a legend in Winnipeg and his home country of Sweden. More than likely, he got his first set of skates before he was two and had a stick in his hands not much later than that. He has played the game at a high level since he was 16. Now at 36, he is no longer physically able to do the thing he loves doing the most.
I went through a range of emotions after I left the service. I was sad, mad, glad, excited and confused all at the same time. Over the next 13 years, I had to deal with both physical and emotional wounds. Many wounds I did not even know I had. I missed the Navy so much. I found a job where I would still be close to to what I knew and loved. For a while it helped. Unfortunately every time I saw a ship leave for the sea I was very jealous. Even now, at the age of 52, I still long to go on a three to six-week “cruise” although I know that there is no way my body could put up with the rigors of sea life. I still miss it! Steen will most likely go through a lot of these emotions, while I know playing in the NHL is not the same as being in the military there are definitely some similarities. Almost every former player that I have had the privilege of talking to has said the same thing. “I miss the boys!” former Blues goalie Mike Liut told me that Kelly Chase convinced him to play in the Winter Classic Alumni game and it was the greatest experience he had had in a while. He stated that he was not in the locker room for five minutes and the banter began and I feel the same when I can get together with old shipmates, the busting of chops never stops!
Alexander Steen, we as St. Louis Blues fans appreciate every day you sacrificed your body for our enjoyment. The sight of your gap-tooth grin while you held up the Stanley Cup in Boston after game seven will never be forgotten. Your toughness, forechecking and your selfless play on the so-called fourth line during the 2019 playoffs have forever endeared you to the fans of the blue and gold.
Take the time you need. Enjoy your new son and allow your back to heal. Let the emotions come and drink them in. All of them-the good and the bad. I say that because Mr. Steen you are a champion, and you will always be our “Steener.”
After game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals, we were leaving the garage, and a police officer held us up at the exit. He was allowing a player’s car to leave. My friend started going crazy, yelling “that is Steener.” He rolled the window down and started waving and screaming at Alex. Steen then waved to us giving us a nod as he pulled away. The look on his face told us, sorry for that one guys, but do not worry we got this.
Alex, when and If you decide to get back into the game at some level, we will welcome you back with open arms and a heating pad.
Guy “Hawaii Blues Fan” Bensing