It's been well documented how the road to NHL stardom wasn't an easy one for Boston Bruins
goalie Tim Thomas
Part of that road connects him with the Tampa Bay Lightning
and a few of their current players, whom Thomas now will be opposing in the Eastern Conference Finals. Game 1 of that series starts Saturday in Boston at the TD Garden (8 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC, RDS).
For starters, there's the bond between Thomas and Lightning All-Star forward Martin St. Louis
, who were teammates at the University of Vermont from 1993-97.
"I don't think we had parallel careers, but we've had similar careers," Thomas said when asked about his relationship with St. Louis. "Marty's size (5-foot-8, 176 pounds) and my style as a goalie were considered drawbacks and we were labeled as players who would never be able to do it at the NHL level because of those two things, but we both battled.
"Marty broke through first (in 2000-01), and went on to great success, but we're similar now in that we've reached the East Finals and both doing very well. We're both competitive and leave everything on the ice and I know it's not going to be easy playing against Marty, so I have to be ready for that."
"I don't think we had parallel careers, but we've had similar careers. Marty's size (5-foot-8, 176 pounds) and my style as a goalie were considered drawbacks and we were labeled as players who would never be able to do it at the NHL level because of those two things, but we both battled."
-- Tim Thomas on Martin St. Louis
Then there's the story of Thomas opting to attend Vermont instead of the University of Massachusetts-Lowell. Standing in his way then was UMass-Lowell's starting goalie, Dwayne Roloson
"After graduation from (Davison High in Michigan), I played junior hockey in Detroit and the following summer was recruited by UMass-Lowell and Michigan Tech," Thomas said. "Both teams had junior goalies who were All-Americans entering their senior years. Both coaches told me that they wanted me but that I could either redshirt or might play three games max. Vermont was the only school to call me and tell me I had a chance to play right away. I'd have to earn it, of course, in a tryout with two other junior goalies, but I had the opportunity so I chose not to go to UMass-Lowell."
, who later was drafted by the New York Rangers
in the 10th round (No. 213) in 1991, was starring for Michigan Tech at the time. Roloson, who would sign as an undrafted free agent with the Calgary Flames
in 1994, was a Hobey Baker Award nominee at UMass-Lowell.
Finally, there was the time Thomas actually signed a two-way deal with the Lightning when he played for the Detroit Vipers of the International Hockey League during the 1999-2000 campaign. He'd go 10-21-3 that season, with a 3.56 GAA and .892 save percentage.
"I played the whole year with the Detroit Vipers in the minor leagues that year," Thomas said. "The owner of the Lightning at that time (Palace Sports and Entertainment) also owned The Palace at Auburn Hills. I was in camp for 5-6 weeks, too. I remember quite a bit, actually."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale