Ever wonder what Tim Thomas' MasterCard commercial would look like?
Perhaps like this:
One Vezina Trophy: Thirty-six wins, a 2.10 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage.
A shot at leading the 2010 USA Olympic Team: Countless hours, blisters, frostbite and bruises at the local pond in Flint, Mich.
Getting to this point after years and years of overcoming overwhelming adversity: Priceless.
However, unlike those catchy 30-second credit card ads, Thomas isn’t planning to end his career anytime soon — not after what he’s been through. Thomas’ journey has been the feel-good topic of choice this season because, simply put, no one thought he would get this far – including the 2010 Team USA coach, Ron Wilson.
“I actually had the opportunity to coach Tim Thomas in the ’94 World Championships,” Wilson told Kevin Paul Dupont of The Boston Globe. “And seeing where he is today, I never would have imagined [his success], and I don’t think he imagined it even four years ago.”
While the Tank has a big shiny Vezina in his possession, he would really like some accessories to go with it — as in a gold medal around his neck and a championship ring on his finger. Sure, enough, that’s exactly what this upcoming winter can offer the 35-year-old backstop. The Bruins are restocked after their winningest season in almost three decades, and Team USA is eyeing his unorthodox style to bring a medal to the States.
Thomas has earned back-to-back All-Star Game nods and has captured 94 wins in the last three seasons (his first three as an NHL starter), but times weren’t always this good for the Tank. Since being a ninth-round pick of the Quebec Nordiques in 1997 out of the University of Vermont, he played through four stints in Finland. Despite tremendous success overseas, he took a shot with the Bruins in 2002 but was shipped down to Providence, a move that proved to be a difficult time for Thomas.
"I'd already made peace with the fact that I'd never get a shot in the NHL," the Michigan native told lasvegassun.com of that stage of his career. "Then Boston calls, and it was a tough decision to come back because I was in a great situation in Finland, and I came back thinking I was gonna be in the NHL for sure. Then I got sent down to the minors. That was devastating to me at the time.”
Rather than pack it in, Thomas hung on by the lacquer of his facemask.
“Tim is the picture of perseverance and I think a shining example for all our team never to give up, no matter what the circumstances,” Wilson added in the Globe.
Despite his past experience with Thomas, and the Bruins keeper’s brilliant campaign last season, Wilson is going to let what he witnessed at the USA Orientation Camp in Illinois last week — and the first three months of the NHL regular season — decide who is going to take the reins as the last line of the American defense come February.
“Goaltending is the most important position in the NHL, period,” said Wilson in the Globe. “But it even gets more amplified in a short tournament, whether it is a World Cup, World Championship or the Olympic Games. When all other things are equal, it is the goaltending that makes the difference. I am not going to make any judgments. I am going to see who is playing well with the candidates we have in mind.’’
Ryan Miller (34-18-6, 2.53 GAA last season) and Jonathan Quick (21-18-2, 2.48 GAA) stand between Thomas and a starting nod in Vancouver. While Miller’s textbook padwork and Quick’s youthfulness may make them more suitable candidates, they both lack Thomas’ undying determination and ability to overcome extreme odds from the bottom of the well. After all, wasn’t this country built on these platforms? Is there a more suitable scenario for Wilson than to have the posterboy of hard work and sacrifice between the pipes against the world’s finest skaters?
According to NHL.com, American general manager Brian Burke is insisting that this group of Americans will be the underdogs of the tournament.
"There's not going to be a dime bet on this team in Las Vegas — not a penny," Burke told NHL.com. "We're going to be a dramatic underdog and most of the focus will be on the other teams.”
Come December, when Burke and Wilson are whittling down their red, white and blue roster, don’t look any further than the most prolific underdog of them all, the Black and Gold’s Tim Thomas.