Tim Thomas is just starting to fathom the storybook season he had and, for that matter, the career he is having. But he doesn't plan on soaking up the newfound fame and success for too long; he's looking forward to building off it.
For Thomas, the job is never done. There is always more to accomplish. For example, winning the Stanley Cup and maybe even Olympic gold are two goals he would like to achieve this coming season.
"I don't think it's sunk in really yet," said Thomas of the past season in which he led his team to a first-place finish in the Eastern Conference and the second round of the playoffs. He also won the Vezina Trophy with a 36-11-7 record, 2.10 goals-against average and .933 save percentage.
"It really was above and beyond any dream I had or goals I set," he said. "I didn't allow myself beforehand to think about winning it. When my name was finally announced [as the Vezina winner], I was a bit caught off-guard because I didn't want to prepare myself for winning or losing it, so I wouldn't be disappointed if I didn't win. It was just a great season overall for the team and myself so I was happy either way."
But while Thomas was honored and proud, he said he still has plenty to focus on now.
"It is a great honor to have won and I'm sure I'll look back on it for the rest of my life," he said. "But right now I still think I have a lot more to accomplish so I won't really let myself enjoy it that much now. It's probably something I'll appreciate more later in my life. I've always been one of those people [for whom] things sink in a little later because I'm so focused on the present and the next goal I set."
Another honor for Thomas was his recent invite to the USA Hockey Olympic Team orientation camp on August 17-20. Thomas has always been a big fan of international play and takes great pride in donning the red, white and blue.
"It's an honor," he said. "When the 1980 Olympics happened I was five years old and that was the first hockey impression on me. So growing up I was never really thinking about the NHL or college, it was the Olympics that were my goal. So I would love to play on the Olympic stage."
Thomas has been running hockey camps in Burlington, Vt., where he spent four seasons at the University of Vermont. As the summer has gone on, he has finally reflected back on his team's season and its heartbreaking overtime loss to Carolina in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
"By that point of the season, teams are so emotionally drained and I was so tired at that point that it didn't affect me right away," Thomas said. "I was upset, but it was just your body being in survival mode at that point and finally coming down from that and gaining your energy back. But now looking back on it, I did the best I could and I know our team did as well. We left everything on the ice and I think that, yeah, I'm upset. I think under different circumstances we may have gone on. But I'm happy with my team and happy with myself."
That's not to say there was nothing to learn from the playoff experience.
"We just have to build on that and hopefully make it further next season," he said. "It's pretty amazing, actually, if you think about where we came from last year. From eighth in the Eastern Conference to winning it last year and then making it to the seventh game of the second round. That was a big improvement."
The defense that left the ice after Game 7 will have a different look this season, and while Thomas was sad to see friends and teammates Aaron Ward, Shane Hnidy and Steve Montador go, he is excited to start playing with his new teammates and learning their games in training camp.
"Well it's always sad to lose old players that you enjoy playing with … [but] it's unfortunate in hockey that it's a business and you can't keep a team together forever," he said. "But we got some good new guys. A guy that has earned his shot in Johnny Boychuk, and I don't know much about Derek Morris, but from what I'm told and have seen he will be a great addition."
Thomas has faith that the Bruins' brass has made the best moves necessary for the team.
"The organization, all the moves they've made in the last few years have turned out for the better, so I have faith in what they do. It should be good for our team," he said.
Thomas is now looking forward to camp and learning how to work with his new teammates on the blue line.
"We'll work on communication and how I'll talk when I go back to play the puck, but most of it will just happen on the ice.
"It's about getting used to each other out there," he said. "I'm excited and I like our chances."