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Tim Thomas: True Character

by John Bishop / Boston Bruins

On Friday, Tim Thomas was re-signed by the Boston Bruins
Thomas at Vermont
Commentary: The movie script that is Tim Thomas’ hockey career continued its crescendo on Friday when the Boston Bruins announced that they had extended the contract of their All-Star goaltender.

From Rudy-esque beginnings at an Olympic festival in 1993 to his heroics at the 1996 Frozen Four and on through his two victories in the last two NHL All-Star Games, Thomas remains a truly inspirational character in the ongoing drama of big time hockey.

Like the fictional Rod Tidwell from the movie Jerry Maguire, Thomas has also defied the prerequisites deemed necessary for success in the spotlight.

Thomas on Style: “I think every individual or every goalie has to find their own style, what works for them best…I see young goalies nowadays at some hockey schools, and they are being taught the butterfly technique only; to go down and keep your shoulders up and keep your hands down….And that might work for the kids that end up being 6'2, but what about the kid whose full height only ends up being 5'8 or 5'9? If they don't learn to play a different style, they are not going to be successful at the higher levels.”

So, with a style that is all his own, and like Cuba Gooding’s Academy Award winning character,
Thomas in Providence
Thomas has finally achieved “The Kwan.” As Rod explained to Jerry Maguire, “It means love, respect, community, and the dollars too. The entire package. The Kwan.”

The love was always there – from his family who famously hawked personal belongings to pay for hockey, to his wife and children who followed him around the world so that the goalie could continue to pursue his hockey dream.

At first, community was simply his hometown in Michigan. Then community came in the form of the fans of the University of Vermont. Now, ultimately, that community encompasses hockey fans from Karpat to Quincy.

Thomas on Travel: “Even though I was not in the NHL, wherever I was at in the minors or Finland, I was getting plenty of playing time. In the long run, that helped with my experience as far as being in just about every game situation imaginable…But it also made it easier to deal with the fact that maybe you were not getting your chance, because you were just busy doing your job…I think you have to keep belief in yourself no matter what.”

The Bruins did not release the terms of Tim’s new contract, but since Thomas could have tested free agency, we can assume the dollars are now there, too -- an acknowledgment that Thomas has brought the entire package to New England and has forever changed the way that fans of the Black & Gold view goaltending.

In contrast to the Quebec-born/trained butterfly goalies that have so tormented the Bruins for years (Roy and Brodeur and Theodore, for example), Thomas, an American, who grew up idolizing Team USA goalie Jim Craig (just like every little hockey player from Orono to Oregon), displays the kind of tenacity and inventiveness that New Englanders have admired since the Pilgrims landed in Plymouth.

Thomas’ competitiveness makes him uniquely qualified to wear the same colors as Tiny Thompson, Frank Brimsek, Gerry Cheevers and Andy Moog. Now, having helped lead the Bruins franchise out of some of the darkest days of the teams history, Thomas and his teammates stand poised to take on the NHL and add some more laundry to the Garden's girders.

Thomas on competition and longevity: “I was never really looking over my shoulder anywhere I was at, no matter what my age. I was more concentrating on trying to do the best I can do and I still think that's the mindset…I've never looked at it as a competition with the other goalies. The competition has always been with myself…I plan on playing as long as I possibly can. I love the game…I don't know what a 34-year-old is supposed to feel like, but I don't feel 34 if it's supposed to feel bad. I feel pretty much the same way I did when I was 27.”

And who knows, maybe next year, when the Olympic Winter Games come to Vancouver, maybe Thomas can reprise the role originally filled by Craig, and rework the movie Miracle for a new generation of little hockey players.

As Rod Tidwell said, "We're making miracles happen."
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