It took a few months before Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen
was comfortable enough to call Philadelphia his home.
After spending eight seasons with the Predators and enjoying life in Nashville, one could only imagine what the nine-year veteran experienced after moving to Pennsylvania. Does the term "culture shock" come to mind?
"The start of the year was kind of weird since I was coming over from Nashville, so it took me a couple months to acquaint myself with the new lifestyle," Timonen said. "On top of that, I had to learn different systems, but I feel Philly is now beginning to feel like home.
"It's hard to say what happened here last year since I wasn't a part of it, but I do know everyone at this season's training camp was really looking forward to getting over that. The team has really come together and, system-wise, we're playing well. I certainly feel the organization is going in the right direction."
It didn't take long before Timonen, a major cog for the second-ranked power-play unit in the League, realized just how passionate the city is about its hockey team.
"There is a difference between the fans of Philly and those in Nashville," Timonen said. "In Philly, you're talking about an organization that has been around for years (since 1967) and the fans really know the game. Nashville is still learning the game (after expanding into the League in 1998) and that's not a bad thing, but it's a lot louder in Philly and you're in the spotlight every night."
It was in Nashville where Timonen's career began to prosper, particularly in 2005-06, when he collected 50 points (39 assists) to finish 12th among NHL defensemen. He was promoted to captain in 2006-07 and finished 11th among defensemen with a career-high 55 points (42 assists). On June 18, 2007, he was traded to the Flyers, along with Scott Hartnell, in exchange for a first-round selection in the 2007 Entry Draft. He agreed on a six-year contract.
"I wanted to know if the Flyers were going to do everything possible to improve and contend," Timonen said. "I did not want to join a team that was slowly rebuilding. I'm 32 years old and wanted to join a team that is expected to win now. (General Manager) Paul Holmgren assured me that's exactly what they were going to do."
Through 61 games this winter, Timonen has eight goals and 22 assists, while leading the team in ice time (23:48) and shifts (28.9) per game.
Holmgren, who was entering his first full season as Flyers GM in 2007-08, certainly kept his word, signing top free-agent forward Daniel Briere and trading for forward Joffrey Lupul and defenseman Jason Smith from Edmonton.
But Timonen's brother, Jussi, didn't stay in Philadelphia for a reunion this season. He was playing with the Flyers' American Hockey League affiliate, the Philadelphia Phantoms, but was traded to Dallas on Dec. 10 for a conditional draft choice in 2009.
"Looking at it from a family perspective, yeah, I was disappointed, especially since his being here also influenced my decision to come," Timonen said. "But looking at it from the business side of things, it was probably a good career move for Jussi. He wasn't getting a lot of ice time and this will hopefully change that for him. The last I spoke to him, he did tell me that he was playing a lot and playing well, so everything worked out for the best."
On a roster comprised of nine players 25 or younger, Timonen knows he needs to set a good example.
"I still try to be myself," Timonen said. "I realize I was a captain last year with Nashville, but that really didn't change anything in the way I played or acted. I'm just doing my job. The best leaders are those who come to the rink, stay positive and work hard every day. That's the example I try to show. It also helps when you're winning games because everyone remains in a positive frame of mind."
At the 2004 World Cup of Hockey, Timonen led his team in scoring with six points, the fifth-highest total overall in the tournament. During the lockout in 2004-05, he played for his hometown team (KalPa) in Kuopio, Finland, which he partly owns with current Flyers teammate Sami Kapanen. He was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings in the 10th round (250th overall) of the 1993 Entry Draft and was eventually traded to Nashville, along with Jan Vopat, in exchange for future considerations on June 26, 1998.
Contact Mike G. Morreale at email@example.com.