Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Alanah McGinley on 01/23/08 at 06:22 PM ET
Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas participated in a NHL conference call with the media today. His current record is 15-11-3 with one shutout, and his 2.38 GAA and .927 save percentage leads all NHL goaltenders.
Here is the transcript of the Q & A session.
Q. I think for a lot of us, you’re sort of the poster boy for determined belief in yourself. It’s been a long haul, and at one point there wasn’t room in the National Hockey League for you and now they have to make room for you in the All-Star Game. Can you talk about this whole long experience that you’ve gone through?
TIM THOMAS: Well, I mean, just as far as making the All-Star Game, it was kind of, you didn’t dare think about it for so many years. It was just a hard enough battle to try to make it to the NHL. But now that I’ve been in the NHL consistently for a couple years here, I did that.
Last summer, I did set a goal for myself to make the All-Star Game. I mean, it wasn’t like a goal coming into the season. It’s like you make a list of goals that you shoot for. You might not get ‘em, but that’s one thing that I made in my mental list of goals. I mean, I can’t believe that it actually bore through, but just hearing them announce me, “Tim has been elected to the 2008 All-Star Game,” it’s funny even hearing it to my ears.
Q. Talk about your faith in yourself in those years you went and played in Finland, and even in Detroit and after Vermont.
TIM THOMAS: Well, I personally always thought that I was a goalie, and actually I was helped out in my belief in myself by my agent, Bill Zito, who always believed that I should be in the NHL. It’s not only, “You’ll be in the NHL. You’ll be in the NHL,” but he said, “you’ll be in the NHL and you’ll be one of the better goaltenders, too.” This is back when I couldn’t find an AHL job, let alone an NHL job.
Also, my wife standing by me, she’s always had the belief that I could do it and having—surrounding your people—surrounding yourself with people that believe in you, also, it makes it easier to belief in yourself.
But as far as—I always believed I had the talent to play in the NHL and to play at a high level in the NHL but at points in my career, like the last time that I was in Finland, I actually pretty much made peace with the fact that it was never going to happen.
And then I did get the opportunity to sign back with Boston, and this is in the year after the lockout. I was already over in Finland playing at the beginning of September and Boston approached me about signing a contract. It was a really difficult decision for me to actually take that chance and come back to the NHL, because I had made that peace that I was never going to get that chance in the NHL. And I had a good setup in Finland with the team and a place that I really enjoyed playing and a team that really appreciated me.
Once again, I was talked into taking the chance basically by my agent and wife, and also other parts of my family. My parents wanted me back in the States, in the U.S., just because that’s where they felt I belonged. So I took the chance.
And yesterday when I found out I was going, I emailed a friend of mine that I played with in that lockout year in Finland and is now playing in Sweden, Quinn Hancock. He played for Syracuse in the AHL a few years ago and stuff. But I emailed him that I was going to the All-Star Game, and he emailed back: “I guess this is final proof that you made the right decision in coming back from Finland,” because I had been discussing it with him at the time when I was making the decision to come back and try it again. It was a really tough decision, but it looks like it’s bearing fruit.
Q. You used to be in the Oiler organization and things didn’t work out for you, years ago, but what happened when you were down in the minors?
TIM THOMAS: I was 23 at the time I think, I believe. I played my first year out of college and started out in the East Coast hockey league and went to the AHL and went to Finland and that’s when Edmonton offered me the contract the next year. I went into Edmonton’s camp—
Q. You had a good camp as I recall. You were very good.
TIM THOMAS: I had a great camp. I think I was knocking on the doorstep then. That’s the first time I met Bob Essensa. He has been the goalie coach for at least four years now.
When I got sent down, I think I expected to play a lot in Hamilton right off the bat in the AHL. Steve Passmore was there, also, and I put all the blame on myself. I think I was a little bit immature at the time and I just expected the No. 1 job in the NHL to be given to me, and I had a hard time dealing with it when Steve Passmore played the majority of the games. But now looking back, he deserved to; he was playing better. He had a great year.
Now as a more mature person, I can appreciate when other goalies play good but back when I was 23, I don’t think I could deal with it. So out of the first, like, 53 games, I had only played 12. I had only started like eight of them.
So what happened was I made the decision to go back to Finland, and it was my decision, and actually, I think Glen Sather (ph) was the GM at the time, he said that he would let me go. It wasn’t anything that anybody in the Edmonton organization did to me. It was just a career decision that I made at the time. I guess it ended up working out in the long run, but it took a long time.
Q. Your being 33, will you look at this experience differently than, say, a 23-year-old would do?
TIM THOMAS: Yeah, I think it will be special no matter what the age. But being older and the path that I took to get here, I think I’m going to try to soak it all in and appreciate it. I think just making the NHL when you’re 30 brings an appreciation to just that accomplishment more than it might have to the younger kid. I think it will be the same thing with an All-Star Game.
Q. Will you get autographs and do all these things that first-timers usually do?
TIM THOMAS: You know, I don’t even know what first timers usually do. (Chuckling) That’s how inexperienced I am at this game. I don’t know the schedule that’s going to happen this weekend, being a late appointment. I am kind of in the dark still, and if that’s what the first-timers usually do, then I’ll follow suit.
Q. If I understand correctly, I read in one of your local papers there, you had been scheduled to take your daughter on a shopping trip. Have you managed to tell her—
TIM THOMAS: She wasn’t a tough sell. I said, “Are you disappointed we’re not going to New York City?”
She said, “No, we’re going someplace better.” We sold her on the fact that Atlanta has a great aquarium, I’ve heard from somebody that worked in the Boston organization for years, Video Joe, that Atlanta has a great aquarium.
So that’s a big sell to get her to be happier with going to Atlanta. So far, it’s worked.
Q. Maybe that might be something as well that you can appreciate, being able to share it with family because you are older and things like that.
TIM THOMAS: Yeah, I mean, being 33 and getting my first All-Star, it doesn’t matter whether it’s the first—it’s a luxury that I have my older daughter who is seven, and she’s old enough to semi-appreciate, and she’ll appreciate for a long time. If I was younger and I had young kids, I don’t know if they could quite get it and be able to remember it. So it makes it quite special because I can share it with more people so to speak.
Q. I apologize, I imagine you were asked this a lot earlier in the season, but earlier in the year, they did bring in Manny and stuff, and you still keep having to fight for your place. Is that something maybe—does that help you keep sharp in some ways? Your numbers are better this year than the past two seasons.
TIM THOMAS: You can never get comfortable. You can never relax in this game. Just like in the summertime, if you don’t work harder than everybody else, then there’s going to be some young kid who is going to out-work you and get better than you.
If you don’t keep trying to get better no matter what your age, you’re going to get passed by. Unless you’re one of those rare talents that has so much talent that you can afford to; that hasn’t been the story of my career. I’ve had to battle every year, and I think every new challenge—I’ve been through enough challenges, though, to where I’m not afraid of a challenge.
I wasn’t, you know—the team in Boston, going out and getting Manny in the summertime, I didn’t even really think twice about it. They are just trying to do what they thought was going to help the team as best they could but my job as an individual and as part of the organization was to work as hard as I could in the summer and try to bring myself in the season to be able to play as well as I could.
And it didn’t matter who the other goalie was, whether it was somebody I played with last year or whether it was a new guy; as long as I was given the chance to compete and the chance to play, then that’s fine by me.
Q. You know, with these challenges that you talk about, obviously you sort of become—people recognize this in you. Do you find that other players do, as well? Do you become a poster boy to some of your colleagues that take a little longer to get to the NHL? Has anyone ever come up and said anything to you?
TIM THOMAS: Yeah, quite a few, especially when I first made it. I haven’t got as many of the comments in the last couple of years because I guess I’m kind of slowly being accepted as a full-timer, you know what I mean.
Q. The All-Star jersey will help.
TIM THOMAS: Yeah. I recall a game last year, I saw Mike Mottau after the game. He was playing in New Jersey now and I played with him at USA Hockey when we were younger, world championships or something, and it had taken him a long time and he had some injury setbacks and stuff like that. He said to me after a game we played last year, “You know, it’s great, I look at a guy like you and I tell myself, keep working, there’s still a chance.”
And I didn’t think much of it at the time until he got the chance this career and he’s doing quite well for himself. So I have heard it before, and sometimes it just makes me feel awkward, because you don’t want to be—I didn’t set out to be an example. I was just trying to do the best I could.
Q. Just want to go back on a couple important names that you mentioned earlier, could you say your agent’s name so I could make sure I get it right.
TIM THOMAS: Bill Zito.
Q. And your wife’s first name?
TIM THOMAS: Melissa.
Q. How many children do you have?
TIM THOMAS: Three; seven, three and two.
Q. Go back even further, you mentioned Mike Mottau was a contemporary, a college player, and you had the four years in Vermont, were those some of the most fun years of your career?
TIM THOMAS: Yeah, I’ve been fortunate to have had quite a few fun years as a pro and as a college player. But those times in college were definitely special, especially with Marty and Eric, they are two of the greatest players and greatest people I’ve ever played with.
It should be really fun being back on the same side as Marty, even if it’s only for an All-Star Game. We played against each other recently in the past few years, and that’s an interesting thing because that means we both accomplished when we were trying to accomplish in college. Although Marty went through—took a hard route to the NHL, also, and Eric an even harder route than Marty. So not this year, but last year when I played against Tampa, there was the first time that me, Marty and Eric had been on the ice since college and that was a special game. They both scored on me. Then I won in a shootout. We all got something out of it.
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