Most people are aware of Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson’s NHL All-Star appearances. What many people don’t know is Vice President and Assistant General Manager Wayne Thomas has an All-Star memory of his own from the 1975-76 season.
Thomas served several years as a backup netminder during his career (still quite a feat in a 12-team NHL), but he shined when given a starting opportunity in Toronto after backing up Ken Dryden for many years.
That earned Thomas a place alongside the game’s top talent for the midseason classic.
“My first and only,” Thomas said of his All-Star weekend. “My first year in Toronto the first half of the year went really well and that’s when the media voted on All-Star participation,” Thomas recalled.
Thomas was playing well, but his spot as one of two Wales Conference goalies came on a close vote.
|Wayne Thomas #33 of the Toronto Maple Leads makes a glove save against the Boston Bruins at Boston Garden. (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images) |
“I believe I tied with Gilles Gilbert for second, but I got one first place vote and that put me in the position to go,” Thomas recalled.
As with all NHLers fortunate enough to be chosen for the weekend, the first time was very special.
“It was really a thrill,” Thomas said. “It was in Philadelphia when they were in their heyday. It’s a little known fact that I snuck in there.”
He did more than sneak in, but Thomas had definitely bided his time for several seasons.
“I had been a backup in Montreal to Dryden the three previous years,” Thomas noted. “That was my first year as a number one goalie and it was great.
So too is the story of Thomas earning the victory. NHL rules stipulate that the goalie in the nets when the game-winning goal is scored is the netminder of record.
“There were two goalies named and it was a period-and-a-half each,” Thomas said. “I went in for the second half. I’m not sure of the score, but I think we were up 5-1. I went in and led us to a 7-6 victory. I got lit up for five goals, but because of that I got the W. A little bittersweet.”
Thomas can have quite a laugh about earning the win, but it doesn’t take away from a great career highlight. His primary souvenir is the team photo where he sits with the game’s best at that time.
“I’ve got a copy of the team picture,” Thomas said of the shot that sits in his family home.
|Thomas, 62, is well versed in all aspects of the NHL, garnering experience from his 40 years of being a player, head coach, assistant coach, advance scout and executive. |
Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the ultimate reminder in his official game jersey.
“It was eventful in that I wasn’t smart of enough to take the jersey with me,” Thomas said. “The equipment guys packed up the gear and took it to the hotel so we would have it the next morning to go to the airport and they left it with the bellman. Between the time I packed the bag in Philly and it got to the dressing room in L.A. (for the next game) it was stolen. (A place) tried to duplicate one a few years later. I tried to locate it, but didn’t have any luck.”
Even without the physical reminder, Thomas can still say he belonged with the NHL’s top players for that special time. He says the game is similar these days, but the hoopla that goes along with it has dramatically increased.
“I think it was still pretty much a no hitter,” Thomas reflected. “It was conference against conference, so there was some pride, but I think it was more of a showcase than a competitive game. It was less hype than now. The families didn’t come in.”
The families may not have been there, but Thomas played in front of a full Philadelphia Spectrum and was on the ice when the final whistle blew.