"That man," said one reporter to another as he pointed to Tim Thomas
following a recent practice, "that man is the most competitive guy I've ever met in sports."
There will be no argument about that statement from this space, and it is why some people were concerned that Thomas would see the arrival of goalie Manny Fernandez from the Minnesota Wild with decidedly mixed emotions.
Having not professed any negative feelings over the summer, a summer where Tim was a frequent visitor to the weight room at the Ristuccia Arena, Thomas a-matter-of-factly explained that he did not feel as if his task has been modified, at all.
"My role, ultimately, doesn't change," he said. "When I get the chance to play I have to play the best that I can, try to help the team win (and, when sitting) to be a positive presence in practice and in games."
Last season, Tim was clearly a bright spot for the spoked-B.
In 66 games he had a 30-29-4 record with a 3.13 goals against average. And while facing one of the highest shot totals in the league, Thomas had an impressive .905 save percentage.
Thomas looks at the coming campaign with a very positive attitude and said those feelings are already found in the Bruins room.
"I expect it will be a different attitude, a different approach -- a different everything," said Thomas of his expectations of the Black & Gold.
When asked about his being part of a tandem, even a tandem where he might play less games than the other guy, Timmy said that he always has been part of a duo, and by extension, had to compete for playing time.
"Even if one goalie is playing a majority of the games, you are still a tandem," he said. "I've had years, with Andrew Raycroft in the AHL, for example, where I've been part of a tandem…and we were both able to have success.
"With Hannu Toivonen in the AHL, we were a tandem and, again, were able to have success, so it's not a problem."
Looking past any worries about playing time or labels such as starter or backup, Thomas reiterated that his job has not changed and that he is looking forward to the challenge of the coming season.
Since meeting his new neighbor in the goalies section of the locker room, the two men could quickly be seen talking shop.
"What it ultimately boils down to is just doing your job when you are called upon," said Tim. "I don't think that anybody can afford to be (expecting to play), at this level, anymore.
"It's what have you done for me lately, not what you did last year.
"There are very few guys, maybe three or four, that have that kind of credit built up -- Luongo, Brodeur, maybe Giguere, now, Hasek -- who can expect something like that," he said.
Instead, Thomas has a wider reaching hope, and it's not necessarily to play 60 games, again.
"Hopefully we're watching a franchise turn itself around and head in a direction that the organization can be proud of and that the Boston fans can be part of," said the former University of Vermont Catamount. "We'd like to play well enough to start filling all of the seats at the Garden.
"And we all want to see growth, as a team."
The new coach of his team, questioned repeatedly as to Thomas' role on the squad has been very consistent in his assessment of his goaltenders. Asked what having Fernandez in the fold meant to the Boston Bruins, Claude Julien answered the question and added an addendum.
"(Having Fernandez) is great," said Coach Julien. "You know, here's a guy that's a proven goaltender in the league.
"And, as I mentioned (before, also) having Timmy Thomas makes us that much better.
"Tim's a guy who competes extremely hard and he's a guy that certainly is going to be part of this hockey club and get his share of the games as well," he said.
Pressed and prodded to see if he was just mouthing the company line about his role with the club, Tim, a true pro, just shook his head and copped another company's line.
"I just want to be helpful," said a smiling Thomas. "And I hate to steal the Army's slogan, but I just want to be the best that I can be."
Thus far, Tim Thomas
has had a pretty good track record of doing just that.