The Quebec Nordiques (now Colorado Avalanche)chose Tim Thomas in the 1994 NHL Entry Draft in the ninth round. (217th overall pick). At the time he was in his freshman year at the University of Vermont. He played all four years of college hockey there. Thomas ended up playing in 140 games, with a 81-43-15 record, a GAA of 2.70, and a .924 save percentage. He also secured the second highest all-time career saves in the NCAA Division I with 3,950.
At this point, the path Tim Thomas takes to the NHL gets… a little odd. He began his professional career in 1997 with the Birmingham Bulls in the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL). Thomas played six games in Birmingham, then a single game with the Houston Aeros. Tim then ends up going to Finland and playing in the SM(Suomen mestaruus- ‘Finnish Champion’)-liiga for HIFK (a traditional abbreviation of Idrottsföreningen Kamraterna i Helsingfors-‘Sporting society comrades’. If I have made an error in the spelling or translation, I hope Tuukka Rask will forgive me.) In 1998, he was rewarded for his skills in the crease with the Urpo Ylonen Trophy. (The Finnish Vezina Trophy.)
The Edmonton Oilers offered to sign him upon his return to the US for the ’98-’99 season, but the ownership changed their minds. Thomas played for Edmonton’s AHL affiliate, the Hamilton Bulldogs for fifteen games, but decide to return to Finland’s HIFK. HIFK won the championship that year. For the ’99-’00 season, Thomas returned to the United States. He played for the now defunct International Hockey League (IHL) Detroit Vipers. He played in thirty six games (10-21-3, .892 save%, 3.56 GAA). His numbers weren’t good enough to get a slot in a NHL team. Thomas jumped the Atlantic again, this time playing for the AIK(Allmänna Idrottsklubben Ishockeyförening -‘General Ice Hockey Sports Club’)of the Swedish Elite League. (This time, the apology goes out to Niklas Svedberg for translation and spelling errors.) They made the playoffs that year. In 2001, Thomas signed with the Boston Bruins but decided to play for another Finnish team in the SM-liiga, the Oulun Karpat(‘Oulu Stoats’) as goalie.
The 2002-03 season had Tim racking up the frequent flyer miles as he headed back to the United States. He ended up getting a job in the AHL playing for the Providence Bruins. He played thirty-five games in Providence( 18-12-5 and a GAA of 2.87). Tim Tomas played his first game as a Boston Bruin on October 19th, 2002. His goaltending netted him his first NHL win that night, in a 4-3 match against the Edmonton Oilers. Thomas ended up playing four games for Boston that season. (3-1-0, GAA 3.01). In 2003-04, he played in forty-nine games with Providence (20-16-6, GAA 1.84).
We all know what happened to the 2004-2005 season. The owners with help from commissioner Gary Bettman decided to kill an entire season. Thomas hopped back over to Europe to play another season in Finland. He played in the SM-liiga, this time for Jokerit (Jesters). He ended up winning SM-liiga’s Kultainen Kypara and Lasse Oksanen trophies.(The Kultainen Kypara-‘Golden Helmet’ is awarded to a player by other players in the league. The Lasse Oksanen could be compared to the Hart Memorial Trophy in the NHL.)
Tim Thomas had an amazing season, but came back to Providence for the 2005-06 season. He played 26 games (15-11-0, GAA 2.26). Then he was called to Boston in January, 2006 when both Boston goalies Andrew Raycroft and Hannu Toivonen were injured. In his 38 games with Boston, his record (12-13-0, GAA 2.77) was good enough to earn himself a slot in the Bruins roster. In the 2006-07 season, Toivonen was the starting goalie, but a bad run and some sub-standard play led to Thomas taking over. He finished the season out for Boston (66 games with 30 wins, 29 losses, and GAA 3.13.). Bruins Nation saw fit to award Timmy the Boston Bruins 7th Player Award two seasons in a row.
Thomas spent the next few years as our primary goalie(with intermittent spats with Tuukka Rask at the helm). His .923 save average over the next few seasons showed that Thomas could be one of the league’s dominant goal tenders. He added the Vezina trophy to his weight-addled trophy case in 2009. He won the silver medal for the US in the 2010 Olympics .(the US was beaten by team Canada, but it was considered one of the best Olympic hockey games in history.)
Then came that magical year that should have earned Tim Thomas a statue at the TD Garden next to the one of Bobby Orr. Tim Thomas went 35-11-9 in the regular season. He recorded nine shutouts, and had a save percentage of .933. He made 3,259 saves that season, with a 2.0 GAA. Then came the playoffs. Tim got even better. His save percentage increased to .940 and his GAA dropped to 1.98. He went 16-9, with four shutouts including that final game that made them the 2011 Stanley Cup Champions. For those who have forgotten, here it is one more time.
#30 earned the same amount of wins last season that he had put up in 2010-2011. (35-19-1, 5 shutouts, a 2.36GAA and a .920 save percentage.) His 3,352 saves brought him over the 20,000 career NHL save mark. Rask was injured late in the season, and Thomas was the only goalie for the playoffs. He racked up 3 wins, 1 shutout, and 2 losses in overtime. His efforts weren’t enough to beat the Washington Capitals offense, or the surprisingly inspired defense of their goalie Nathan Holtby.
Tim’s career as a Bruin, or even in the NHL is in doubt. Tim Thomas has been in the news of late. First he chose to snub the White House. Then, he had his ‘frends, family, and faith’ post on Facebook announcing his year long hiatus from the sport. Finally, he was on Facebook again supporting Chik-Fil-A’s CEO for his stance on traditional marriage. Co-workers and friends have often asked me my opinion on all of this (not to mention make fun of my hetero-man crush on Tim). I tell them that I appreciate the HOCKEY player for everything he has done for Boston and Bruins Nation, even if I don’t agree with what the hockey PLAYER is saying.
I said it before… stay, retire, get traded or open up a frozen yougurt franchise on the moon, Tim Thomas will always have a fan. I gained a sport, a whole nation of fellow fans, and a brother because of him.