WILMINGTON, Mass. — It took Tim Thomas 14 seasons as a professional to get involved in his first fight, but one day after taking on Montreal counterpart Carey Price in a memorable night at the Garden on Wednesday, Thomas was already fielding offers to help him hone his pugilistic skills.
“My brother called me this morning,” Thomas said after the Bruins’ practice at Ristuccia Arena on Thursday. “He asked me if I needed him to give me lessons, because he was a forward and was a fighter through juniors. But I was like, ‘No. I’m good.’”
Thomas doesn’t expect to be shedding the mitts again anytime soon. He never thought he’d do it a first time either.
“To be honest, I never thought I’d get in one,” Thomas said. “If it hadn’t happened after all these years pro, then I didn’t think it was going to happen. So then when it did happen, it was a little surreal. The whole time it was happening, I was thinking, ‘Is this really happening?’”
Thomas may have his first fighting major in the books, but he still hasn’t really thrown his first punch with the gloves off. He spent most of Wednesday’s bout struggling to get a grip on Price to tie up his throwing hand, and ending up losing his balance before either netminder could land any real blows.
“I changed hands probably 10 times,” Thomas said. “I was just clawing around trying to find something where I got a solid grip, but everything on him was loose. So I kept changing my grip, while at the same time trying not to leave myself open for the one big punch like [Rick] DiPietro got hit with. As far as that went, it went as planned, as far as slipping his punch. Then I lost balance and by the time I got back up it was over.”
The rest of the Bruins were as relieved as Thomas that he avoided the fate of the Islanders’ DiPietro, who is sidelined with a broken orbital bone after a one-punch knockout by Pittsburgh’s Brent Johnson in the NHL’s first goalie fight of the season last week.
But now that they know their All-Star goalie escaped unscathed, what did the Bruins’ more established pugilists think of Thomas’ first effort in the ring?
“He talked to me right after the period, he had a big game plan going in I guess,” Bruins tough guy Shawn Thornton said. “He found out pretty quickly they don’t always go as planned. But it was all right, he’s a lot smaller than [Price]. But it’s another example of guys having each others’ backs. He came all the way down because it was an odd-numbered situation and their goalie had gotten involved and he didn’t hesitate.”
Despite the results, Thornton was actually impressed with the plan Thomas had for the fight, in which he planned to tie up Price’s right and throw lefts to get inside and counter the reach disadvantage.
“He did fine,” Thornton said. “I liked his game plan. I think it would have worked if he had pulled it off, but sometimes if you miss that grab on the way in it doesn’t always go the way you want it to. But he did a good job. He protected himself very well. He looked all right. It wasn’t much of a fight.”
While Thornton appreciated Thomas’ attempt, Thomas came away with an increased appreciation for the tough job guys like Thornton have to perform far more frequently.
“I gained new respect for the guys that have to do it on a regular basis,” Thomas said. “I saw how easily plans go out the window. I had a hard time changing plans on the fly. I was trying to change plans.
“Another thing is just trying to keep your balance,” Thomas added. “They don’t have the goalie pads on. You can’t move much once you have each other tied up, but I couldn’t get him tied up.”
But as with most hockey fights, the result was secondary. The most important thing was just showing up to stick up for your teammates, and Thomas delivered on that front.
“I was just following the code of the game, and the code is you can’t let the other goalie get in there to make it an odd-numbered situation,” Thomas said. “If he does, as the opposing goalie, it’s your job to stop that. That’s all I was doing, just following the unwritten code of the game.”