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Bruins' Thomas starts new year in style

By Shawn P. Roarke - NHL.com Senior Managing Editor

This is the way to start a New Year.

Forget half-hearted resolutions. That's too pedestrian for Tim Thomas, the Boston Bruins' goalie. Instead, Thomas lived a year of emotions in a 12-hour period.

"New Year's Day 2010 will go down as one of the most memorable days of my life and my career," Thomas said moments after skating off the Fenway Park ice as the winning goalie in his team's dramatic 2-1 overtime victory against the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2010 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic. "Between winning and the way that we won and being named to the Olympic team.

That's right, even before Thomas walked out of the Red Sox's dugout for the pre-game skate Saturday morning, his 2010 was made.

Thomas has talked openly about how much playing in the Olympics means to him. He thought he lost his best opportunity in 1998 when the Olympics transitioned from an amateur tournament to a showcase for professional players. Yet 12 years later, Thomas completed an incredible trek from European journeyman to Vezina Trophy winner and Olympic athlete.

"As I have said before, I have been waiting 30 years for this," Thomas said. "I feel like I have been waiting my whole life for this opportunity."

Team USA General Manager Brian Burke informed Thomas his long-awaited opportunity had finally arrived during a Saturday morning conversation.

"Obviously, I had to keep it quiet," Thomas said. "That's a good thing because I was able to control my emotions. I think I would have been a blubbering mess on national television if I had found out right before."

Actually, Thomas could not control his emotions throughout the duration of the Winter Classic -- and that almost became the dominant storyline of the New Year's Day game.

Early in the second period, Philadelphia's Scott Hartnell crashed into Thomas during some action around the Boston crease. The contact sent Thomas sprawling and left him vulnerable during a shot attempt from the point. Several seconds later, Thomas took an opportunity to retaliate, cross-checking Hartnell to the ice. The only problem was that Flyers defenseman Danny Syvret fired a slapper into the vacated net at the same instant to give Philadelphia a 1-0 lead.

"Basically, I lost my cool and I wasn't following the puck," Thomas said.

Bruins coach Claude Julien, though, excused his goalie for his lapse in reasoning.

"I'm sure he is going to be the first to acknowledge that he lost his temper," Julien said. "But, at the same time, that is what has made him a great goaltender -- his character and the way he battles.
"Every once in a while, he'll get those goals because of the way he battles, but he'll make 10 times more saves because of that character. The character and the battle that he has in him; it has helped him more than it has hurt him."

In fact, Thomas made every save asked of him after Syvret's goal, finishing with 24 as his team rallied to score the tying goal with less than three minutes remaining in regulation and adding the winner in the second minute of overtime.

"When Marco (Sturm) scored the winner, that was one of the most incredible feelings that I can remember," Thomas admitted.

But he had little time to savor it. Ten minutes after walking off the ice as a Winter Classic winner, he was walking back into Fenway Park in his freshly minted Team USA jersey to be introduced as an Olympian in USA Hockey's nationally televised Olympic selection special.

"I was at least prepared for the walk out," Thomas said. "It was just a great way to be named. To be able to be named at your home crowd, at Fenway Park; I mean, you add these things together and this is a story that will be told the rest of my life."