Steve Thomas (Sporting News Archive/Getty Images)
In this week's Getting To Know, go in-depth with Steve Thomas about his experience immigrating to Canada and watching the junior B team in Markham as an introduction to hockey, how he felt when he put on a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey for the first time and a fight gone wrong that ended with his hockey pants around his feet.
Status: Former NHL right winger from 1984-2004 for Toronto, Chicago, New York Islanders, New Jersey, Anaheim and Detroit.
HT: 5-11 WT: 185 pounds
DOB: July 15, 1963 In: Stockport, United Kingdom
First Hockey Memory: "We immigrated to Canada in 1967, I was four. And we had a junior B team in our hometown of Markham. And on that junior B team players like Mike Palmateer, Steve Vickers, Dennis Maruk played on that team. And being first time immigrants into Canada, my dad took me to some of these games and we really took a shine to the game of hockey. And that's what really got me started."
Hockey Inspirations: "Just growing up and watching the Toronto Maple Leafs play. Having to go upstairs, put my pajamas on and was able to watch the first period of the game and the Peter Puck between periods if I was good [smiles]. Just sitting down in the family room there with my dad watching games inspired me."
Last Book Read: "Lone Survivor."
Current Car: "I have a Porsche Cayenne (black)."
Greatest Sports Moment: "Probably just putting the Toronto Maple Leafs jersey over my head for the first time when I was twenty-one years old. I've had some good memories in my career...but maybe scoring an overtime goal - the first overtime goal - in the first game at the Air Canada Center, was another good one. And being in the Stanley Cup finals was another great memory for me. I was with Anaheim - we lost to New Jersey in game seven."
Most Painful Moment: "Probably watching Bryan Berard lose his eye, in a game against Ottawa. When I played for Toronto. That was a really sad time. We all flew back to Toronto and then I got back on a plane and went back to Ottawa to see him in the hospital and, God, there was a lot of tears shed that day."
Favorite Uniforms: "Well, I played for Toronto Maple Leafs, I played for Chicago Blackhawks and I played for the Detroit Red Wings. If I could have put a Tampa Bay Lightning jersey on that would have been my favorite. I'm gonna be politically correct there [smiles]. But I always really liked the Chicago Blackhawks jersey, it was a very, very cool jersey."
Favorite Rinks To Play: "Without a doubt...well, Maple Leaf Gardens was a great place for me to play. Because it's home. And I felt like I grew up in that building. I played junior hockey in that building. I played for the Leafs in that building. But the most inspiring stadium was probably the old stadium in Chicago."
Why Do You Love Playing Hockey: "I think it all stems from my dad introducing me to the game. He never played, never skated in his life. I came from a soccer background, you know, the game of hockey is not unlike soccer in a lot of ways. Just my dad introducing me to that junior B team early on is something that inspired me and got me very interested in playing. That start of everything, wanting to make that my career and make a living out of it."
Closest NHL Friends: "It was tough, I was on seven different teams. So you're there long enough to develop some friendships and then everyone kind of moves on and does their thing. But the most gratifying thing is when you've developed those friendships and you haven't seen each other in four or five years, it's like you've only been away from that person for a day. So all those memories come rushing back. And it's like no time has gone by. I really cherish those moments when we get to see each other again. And it's really not any particular guy, it's all the guys I played with."
Funniest Players Encountered: "Well, Marc Bergevin is a really funny, funny guy. I played with him in Chicago. I really got a kick out of him. I played twenty years, there's so many funny moments, funny guys. But he's one that stands out. Doug Wilson, for me, was a pretty funny guy. Tie Domi was a funny guy. I laugh at Tie Domi. His jokes weren't so much funny but he was funny to be around [smiles]."
Most Memorable Goal: "Probably my overtime goal in game four of the Stanley Cup finals was a big goal (against NJ). 2003."
Embarrassing Hockey Memory: "One embarrassing moment I had was at the Tropicana Field here in Tampa. I was playing for the New York Islanders and we got a five on five kind of brawl on the ice. And I got paired up with Enrico Ciccone. And for whatever reason, the belt buckle on my pants busted. And I was fighting and my pants were like down by my knees. I had to open my legs to make sure my pants didn't go down to the floor. So that was a bit of an embarrassing moment. I really wasn't embarrassed. Some of the turnovers at the blue line for goals - those are embarrassing moments but you learn from those and you move on."
Fiercest Competitors Encountered: "The toughest guy that I encountered, a guy that played so hard and teams would win Stanley Cups years after year - Ulf Samuelsson. He's an assistant coach with the New York Rangers now. He was a guy that played so hard and I know that every time I went on the ice that I knew that he was out there. I had to make sure that I knew that he was out there. Or else you're in for a rough ride. He was a real competitive guy and played so hard every single shift. He was a guy that I admired for that."
Strangest Game: "I remember scoring a goal when I dumped the puck in from just inside the blueline and I was sitting on the bench after I dumped it in and one of their guys put the puck in his own net and I got credit for the goal while sitting on the bench - for like fifteen seconds [smiles]. That was in Hartford."
Favorite Sport Outside Hockey: "Soccer, without a doubt."
First Famous Player You Met or Encountered: "His name was Bob Neely. Bob Neely was one of the only Leafs back in the 70's that lived in our hometown. He commuted from Markham, Ontario into the Maple Leaf Gardens. But he lived in our town and he eventually coached me in Tier 2. I've known Bob since I was a little kid. And he was really nice to me."
Funny Hockey Memory: "Just the camaraderie and some of the personalities of the players that I played with. I think a lot of that comes with just being in the dressing room with all these guys and developing the friendships and just the funny funny moments that we shared together in the locker room."
Personality Qualities Most Admired: "I just like being around good people that care about what they do. People who give you a pat on the back. People who are honest. They're not really talking behind your back in any sense of the word. Just good leaders, good people to be around. Just good teammates. Those are qualities that I really enjoy to be around."
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