Since he was a kid, Bruins goalie Tim Thomas' hockey dreams came through in red, white and blue.

The game's best backstop of the 2008-09 season began his quest toward a childhood dream on Monday when he laced them up with 33 more of the game's best American players at the Hockey USA Orientation Camp in Illinois.The camp will determine which players will represent the United States in February's Olympic Games in Vancouver.

"It's definitely huge," Thomas told's John Bishop of being invited to Team USA's camp. "And it will be one of the biggest moments in my life if I get a chance to play in the Olympics. I was an Olympic hockey player in my mind when I was playing in the garage or on the pond — I wasn’t an NHL player."

Part of the reason for that dream is Jim Craig, the Boston native and the netminder on the 1980 United States gold-medal team. Craig, who went to Boston University, is one of the most recognizable names from the Miracle on Ice and was an inspiration for Thomas, a native of Michigan.

"I was five years old at the time, shortly going to turn six," said Thomas of watching the Olympics that year. "From ages 5 to 15, all I was thinking about was making to the Olympics. [Craig] just made a huge impression on my life."

Thomas took home the Vezina Trophy last season as the NHL's best goalie thanks to a 36-11-7 record, a .933 save percentage and a 2.10 GAA — both of which were tops in the league.

Also on the orientation roster are Bruins' sniper Phil Kessel and New England natives Ryan Whitney, Jonathon Quick, Ron Hainsey and Chris Drury. Easton, Mass., native Scott Gordon and Boston native John Tortorella will serve as assistant coaches.