One devastating injury or a few bad performances can end their dreams in an instant. And even the lucky ones know their time in the game will be limited. So it's not surprising to hear so many Bruins take time this Thanksgiving to give thanks for the chance to make a living, and a darn good one at that, by playing the game they've loved since they were boys.
"To be living my dream," said forward Milan Lucic when asked what he is thankful for this year. "Obviously it's something I've always wanted to do as a kid, and to have this opportunity [to play in the NHL], I'm definitely thankful for that."
Goaltender Tim Thomas has an even greater appreciation for his current good fortune, as he toiled for parts of nine seasons in the minors and Europe before finally earning a full-time job in the NHL midway through the 2005-06 season.
"I'm thankful for a lot," said Thomas. "You tend to concentrate on the food, but with Thanksgiving the focus should be on giving thanks. I'm thankful for a ton of things. I'm thankful that I've been able to make more than a good living. From the success I've had on the ice, it translates into being able to live in a nice house. We basically eat whatever we want. We don't have to worry about a lot of the things normal people worry about on a day-to-day basis, but I think it's important to stay grateful for that."
Thomas is especially grateful for how this season has begun. After losing his starting job and battling through a lingering hip injury last season, Thomas is back among the league leaders with a 10-1-1 record, 1.49 GAA, .954 save percentage and four shutouts in his first 13 starts.
"I'm just grateful I'm playing in the NHL, and playing in the NHL at a level that I'm pleased with," said Thomas. "Last year if you look at my stats I was able to get by enough to be respectable, but I don't want to be respectable. I want to be as good as I can be."
Shawn Thornton is grateful for his health as well, especially considering the physical nature of his role as the club's primary enforcer. But he's equally grateful for the good health of his loved ones off the ice as well.
"Health I guess, that's probably the easiest one, huh?" said Thornton when asked what he was giving thanks for this year. "I'm thankful to be healthy, and everyone around me is pretty healthy, so I'm blessed."
None of the Bruins takes their good fortune on the ice for granted, but when it comes to Thanksgiving, most of the team thinks first of their lives away from the rink.
"You hear people say it, but I really mean it," said head coach Claude Julien. "I guess getting older makes you reflect a little bit more, but I've got a great family. I've got a great wife and a beautiful daughter that I cherish. That's something that at one point in your life you don't know if you'll ever get. If got a wonderful family and I'm really thankful for it."
Defenseman Dennis Seidenberg is a few years younger than his coach, but that sentiment knows no generation gap.
"My family, being healthy and all the simple stuff we never think about — the food we have on the table every day," said Seidenberg. "That's what I'm thankful for."
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