Just as he has been for the Bruins the past six games, Tim Thomas was a backup to Ryan Miller for Tuesday’s 3-1 Team USA win over Switzerland, and he is expected to remain in that position for the remainder of the Olympics. But, just as Thomas has handled his relegation on Boston’s goaltending depth chart with grace, he already was taking a positive attitude to his role with Team USA before he even arrived in Vancouver.
"Honestly, I don’t even look at it that way," Thomas told NESN.com before he left for the Winter Games, when asked if he'd pondered his expected playing time at the Winter Olympics. "I’m just so honored and happy to be going and be a part of Team USA. That’s what matters most to me.
"Sure, I want to play," he continued, "but if I can be part of a gold-medal team or something special, that’s what matters most to me."
Since Thomas was a young boy growing up in Michigan, he has always dreamed of playing for Team USA. In fact, that dream always preceded the dream he achieved in becoming a starting goaltender in the NHL. The fact that he is donning the red, white and blue in Vancouver is the ultimate dream come true for the reigning Vezina Trophy winner.
"Since I was 5 years old watching the Olympics and the 'Miracle On Ice' team in 1980, I was hooked because Jim Craig became my hero and I knew then I wanted to be an Olympic goalie," Thomas recalled. "I was so mesmerized by that team and Craig and what it meant to everyone then, I knew that this was what I wanted even at that young age."
Thomas would do whatever he could to watch the Olympics throughout his childhood, whether it was playing hooky from school or staying up late on a school night to see his American heroes.
"I tried to watch the games as a kid however I could," he said with a laugh. "In high school, I got caught skipping school watching the USA-Finland game because my best friend was a Finland foreign exchange student. I wanted to watch [the game] anyway but figured he was a good excuse to my mom if she caught us, and she did. But she wasn’t mad, really. She knew I was crazy over that stuff, and she figured that at least I wasn’t out getting in trouble or something. She would let me stay up late and watch the games a lot, too. She was pretty cool like that."
Thomas does have some international experience playing for Team USA at the World Championships, but nothing can compare to the Olympics and the fact that he is finally an Olympian.
"The World Championships is always a great experience, but this is the Olympics!" he exclaimed. "I mean, this is the top of it all. Being there and wearing that jersey is what I always strived for. Like I said, of course, I want to play but Ryan [Miller] is a great goalie, and he is having the great year so I understand. I’ll be there if and when they need me, and I’ll just be there, and that’s enough for me."
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