LAKE PLACID, NY --
There are some moments when watching Tim Thomas
enjoy his storybook ride is just plain fun.
For those of us in our 30's, Thomas represents many things, but first and foremost he is a living reminder of what we all aspired to be as little hockey players in our backyards, rinks and schoolyards.
Today, watching Tim recount his memories of Jim Craig and the gold medal winning 1980 Olympic hockey team from locker room "5" in the Olympic Center slides right in there with watching his three all-star wins, Vezina Trophy winning season and his time with Team USA in Vancouver last winter.
"It plain and pretty simple," said Thomas while looking around the spartan dressing room where Team USA's late head coach Herb Brooks gave a speech that reminded his young college-age amateurs that the game against the Soviet professionals was their time and that the USSR's day had passed.
Brooks, a master motivator, was prophetic in a literal and figurative way and Thomas himself looked inspired as he surveyed what the historic spot.
"Already in my head the wheels are turning. You know, recreating what happened those couple of weeks during the Olympics," admitted Thomas after just a few seconds in the room.
Thomas then talked about his memories of watching the games as a child.
"I was five-years-old," he began. "And I already had some inkling that I wanted to be a goalie, but those Olympics and Jim Craig sealed the deal.
"I became a goalie and my goal from age five until really probably 20 was to play in the Olympics, not the NHL.
"Not that I didn't want to play in the NHL, but the main goal was the Olympics," he said.
Thomas was not unlike many of those of us who grew up playing ice or street hockey. For us, meaning those hockey-loving people who grew up in the United States during the 80's, the Olympics was THE big time and playing for Team USA the highest aspiration.
"Well, I'm from Flint, Michigan and we had a local IHL team and there wasn't a lot of hockey on TV back in those days," said Thomas. "Hockey Night in Canada once a week, basically and not too good of a feed -- a pretty grainy feed at that.
"I guess it wan't unusual, but I remember from my early years [the goal] was the Olympics."
So it was Craig and the 1980 Olympians that inspired Thomas to move up the ranks through amateur and professional hockey and I asked Thomas if he had ever used any of Craig's puck-stopping moves as he plied his trade in college or with the Bruins.
"I've done it in practice and I've definitely done it in street hockey," said Thomas with a wide smile under his reddish mustache. "And I've actually used them in games but I not necessarily to the same effectiveness that he did."
Thomas was also asked about his teammates that weren't yet born in 1980 and whether he had talked to them about the significance of their practice rink on the happy drive down from Canada.
"About 3/4 of them, you mean," said Thomas, who just turned 37, with another laugh. "No, we had a movie on that was pretty loud and there wasn't a lot of talking going on."
No, the movie was not Kurt Russell's "Miracle" either. But Thomas didn't need to recite lines from the movie to explain the significance of a sporting event that has transcended athletics.
"This was a huge moment for hockey in the United States and also for the United States as a country," said Thomas. "In 1980 we were coming out of the 'stag-flation' of the 70's, we were coming out of the Cold War against Russia.
"The Russian team was supposed to be unbeatable and a team of college kids was able to put it together and basically have a miracle tournament.
"So that, really, is on a whole different, higher level," said Thomas, who added, "The Miracle on Ice was a totally different beast."
Totally different -- just like Mr. Thomas, himself.