Gary Steffes pretty much has turned into one of the faces of the Tulsa Oilers.
Steffes is going into his third season as a member of the Central Hockey League squad after spending his previous two years in helping the Miami (Ohio) University Redhawks play in the NCAA Frozen Four, the Division I hockey version of college basketball's final four.
The Michigan-native said the Oilers, who will play the Denver Cutthroats in a Central Hockey League exhibition game Sunday night at United Wireless Arena, are a stepping stone for his career and loves playing in Tulsa and the organization.
"I believe Tulsa is a fantastic place to make the next step to further my career," Steffes said. "I'm grateful and blessed to play for this organization and for (Oilers head) Coach (Bruce) Ramsay."
Steffes, a forward with the team, scored 22 goals and assisted on 30 others in 66 games for the Oilers last season. Now going into his third season with the Oilers, Steffes has added the role as a team leader on the squad. It's a role he cherishes.
"I feel very blessed with a different role," Steffes said. "I can help some of the young guys and new guys and get used to the transition to this level.
"It makes for a really fun and challenging time. Ultimately, you want to make a team because you earned a spot when everybody did their best. If you have a good (training) camp, then you have a good team."
Steffes uses the word "blessed" a lot in almost every sentence he speaks, not only about his situation in Tulsa and his hockey career.
Not only did the forward spend his time helping the RedHawks reach the Final Four, he also became a part of his university's Athletes In Action group where he became a Christian during his time on campus.
Since that time, Steffes tries to show his faith both on and off the ice.
"I get the privilege of sharing my story with the hockey world. I love Jesus," Steffes said. "I see Jesus as a warrior: play within the rules and to battle with my teammates on the ice and then show my faith with friends and fans when I'm off the ice."
It doesn't mean Steffes wants to fulfill goals that go beyond Tulsa and the Oilers and he has a vision of moving up to the American Hockey League, one of the top levels of the sport.
"It's really important to have a vision and a passion to make the next level," Steffes said. "Proverbs 29:18 says a person without vision perishes. I believe God has me in Tulsa for a reason. I love playing for the Oilers, but I would like to step into the next level."