Welcome to South Florida
Thomas: Thank you
Question: The year away from the game, do you think it’s actually recharged you, reenergized you?
Thomas: Absolutely. I fee l great, I feel almost reborn in away. After 14 years of pro hockey, I got tired. I needed a break. But I’m energized and looking forward to it. I feel great.
Q: Why do you think this is the best opportunity for you?
Thomas: I think this organization is right on the verge of a big turnaround, a big bounce back. I’ve actually been through that in Boston before. When I first came into Boston, it was about a low point for the Boston Bruins. And I was able to see that rise of the organization and a team, and I think the Florida Panthers are situated in a similar situation.
Q: You bring a wealth of experience, a wealth of knowledge, you bring hardware, all those things. What else do you think you can bring?
Thomas: All those things, the experience and competitiveness and leadership. I’ve been around for a long time. Nothing can replace experience is one of the things that I have learned. I remember being a young guy in the league and having people talked about experience, and thinking that “oh, experience is overrated.” But now that I am on the under end of the spectrum and have been through it, I realize how much experience can be beneficial.
Q: Tim, you became a starter at the age of 32. We’ve got a kid here in Jacob Markstrom that has been itching to start for 4 years and he’s only 23. What can you tell a kid like this and how can you help him?
Thomas: I think I help him mostly through the way I’ll carry myself and how I compete on a day-to-day basis in practice and in the games. I think I’ll help him mostly by example. But along the way if there is anything that I can help him out with, I’m happy to do that.
Q: You came here to start right?
Thomas: Well, I definitely came here to play hockey. No doubt about that. But within a team spectrum, I never competed against the other goalie on my team. That’s the way that people want to frame it, that it’s a competition between goalies. But that’s not the way I looked at it. I’m competing against myself, and if I play the best that I can, then I am going to get the results that I want. I am going to get the playing time that I want. So that’s the way I approach it and I think that’s why I have had successful relationships with other the goalies on my teams in the past. That’s the way I approached it with Tuukka, and I think it works really well that way. That way we are always pulling for each other and we’re only thinking about being the best we can be as individuals, rather than competing within a team framework. We are on the same team and we have the same goals.
Q: Tim, during your time away, you wrote that you were focusing on the 3 F’s – family, friends, faith – During any portion of that did you think “my legacy is secure, I’ve won a cup, I’ve done my thing, maybe this is going to be longer, maybe I’m done” – did that enter into your mind that you might not come back at all?
Thomas: Yeah, of course it did. It crossed my mind. I didn’t know. It wasn’t like I stopped playing and then 3 months later I was refreshed and ready to go; otherwise I would have came back; it took awhile. Its really over the past 6 months that I really started to get refreshed again and really started to start thinking in mind about playing hockey.
Q: When did you get the itch? How much did you miss it?
Thomas: You know what really gave me the itch was watching the playoffs. Actually over last season I didn’t watch hockey at all. But then when it came playoff time, I started to watch some hockey. I started to get the competitive juices flowing. I saw my former team the Boston Bruins have the success they had, and I was so proud of those guys and what they did and what they accomplished last year, but I started to get the competitive juices flowing again.
Did you ever have any regrets on leaving Boston?
Thomas: That’s a hard one to answer. In big picture, do I regret it? No. I made the right decision for me and I made the right decision for my family. And I’m very happy for what came out if it in my own personal life. Now, is it hard to leave an organization like that that gave me my opportunity to break into the NHL and a place that, kind of the Northeast especially in Massachusetts, really excepted me as part of the family? Yes of course it was hard to do that. But having said all things, it was the best decision to make for me and for my family.
Q: Where’s home base? What did you do to take the place of hockey?
Thomas: Colorado is home base. And I did a ton of stuff over the year off. I built some town houses, I got involved in some business ventures, and I tried to spend as much time as I could with my kids. I went on a few hunting trips, one here in Florida last summer. An alligator hunt, in the everglades.
Q: Catch any?
Thomas: Yeah I got one.
Q: Did you stuff it?
Thomas: Didn’t stuff it. It’s mounted. I kind of made it into a rug (laughter). Not one that you walk one but on a plaque.
Q: I’m sure it’ll go in your new house. Well down here, the culture, Kevin Dineen runs a pretty tight ship. Any similarities off the bat between him and the way Claude Julian ran the team in Boston?
Thomas: I haven’t even thought about that in my head yet. This is the first day that I have practiced with the team, I just met Kevin officially yesterday. I haven’t thought about that at all. The only thing that comes to my mind, and it really doesn’t have anything to do Keven Dineen is that I recognize some of the drills because of Craig Ramsey; probably his influence because he was the assistant coach at Boston before.
Q: How did the first day go out there getting some of the rust off?
Thomas: I think it went great. It was great to be on the ice with NHL level talent and competing against those guys. I am very happy with the way the first day went.
Q: How did you feel you conversations with Dale Tallon went? Whatever you told him, he said he believed you. Were you just saying, “Listen, I’ve been working out and am feeling good,” that kind of thing?
Thomas: Yeah, I think they went great. I told him that I was in shape. I told him that I was ready to go. When you’re just talking over the phone and we hadn’t seen each other person-to-person, he certainly hadn’t seen me on the ice; he had to take my word for it. But, he convinced me of the direction that the Florida Panthers are headed in, and ultimately made my decision very easy.
Q: Is today’s 40 the 30’s of the future? Do you feel like a young man? How many years could you go?
Thomas: I do. I do. I don’t want to speculate how many years I could or couldn’t go. But I do. I feel rejuvenated, refreshed, and I’m ready to go. I am really enjoying myself.
Q: Campbell said you can go to 45.
Thomas:(Laughs) Maybe, but let’s not look to far ahead.
Q: Tim, you know you’ve become a bit of a polarizing figure obviously. Did any of the reaction when you made your decision to step away, did any of that bother you? Did any of it affect you one way or another?
Thomas: You know… it did. A little bit at first. But then, over the course of the year, I didn’t listen to the media at all. I’m not trying to do any digs or whatever. And I moved totally past that into a totally different place where now I’m focusing on different things and a totally different mindset. I have a new love for the game and a newfound appreciation for being able to play a game at this level and to be part of a team. So, I’m doing a bad job describing that, but I just feel totally new.
Q: Can this be a fresh start? Is that how your looking at this? Total new team with all that behind you in Boston?
Thomas: Yeah, I think so. My time in Boston was great. I am very fortunate to have had the type of personal and team success I had there. Great teammates, great area. The people of that area like I said really allowed me almost to be part of their family. This is a totally new start, a totally new place. And I am looking forward to what’s going to happen in the future.
Q: Do you like the fact that’s it’s not really a hot bed for Hockey and that the Media attention won’t be so glaring Tim?
Thomas: No, to be honest, the media has been on my mind at all for about it year. I said it impacted me for a little while but it’s been about 15 months, about 12 of those months I haven’t thought about it at all.
Q: With the three F’s, what did you find most fulfilling in your time off with your family?
Thomas: Family and Faith. The friends one - unfortunately I didn’t get to see as many friends as I wanted to because the first two were the two I focused on. But I mean it was a great year. It was awesome. Totally rejuvenated.
Q: When did you put on the skates and start facing some pucks?
Q: Where was that?
With a college?
Thomas: No, I went out with Igor Loriano. He work/trains people in the summer. And there’s a Russian goalie coach, Sergei that became a really good friend of mine that helped me out. Setting up drills.