Saturday, December 14, 2019

Tim Thomas Jersey Card

Spoiler Alert #1: I'm writing a book about the 100 best goalies of all time.
Spoiler Alert #2: it will differ from The Hockey News' list from last year.
Spoiler Alert #3: Tim Thomas will be included in it.

All of this was true before he came out this week and talked about the brain damage he's suffered because of all of his past concussions. It took a lot of courage to come forward and explain why he stepped away from the game. You can't help but feel for a guy who was so messed up he couldn't decide what to do or what to eat as he got out of bed, who had to resort to mapping out his days on paper and then choosing activities and willing himself to complete at least part of that list, whether it's crossing a couple of items off of it or half the list.

At the heart of it all stands a human being who has trouble living his daily life, his family who's been there for him the entire time, and a guy whose public life was fodder for sports journalists for a very short period of time.

We're talking about the best goalie in the world for a three-year run, who led the league in save percentage and goals-against average and won the Jennings Trophy and Vezina in 2008-09, and led the league in the same categories in 2010-11, winning another Vezina, but also bring the Stanley Cup to the city of Boston for the first time in 39 years, winning the Conn Smythe in one of the best displays of post-season goaltending since Patrick Roy's retirement.

In and of itself, that is amazing, as is the fact that he "made it" full-time in the NHL at the age of 30, became a true star at 33 when others actually start to decline, and was the last Québec Nordiques draft pick (217th overall, ninth round, 1994) to play in the NHL.

But there was also his political stances, his support of the Tea Party, his adherence to conspiracy theories ("Climate Change Is A Hoax" invented by companies who want to profit from selling "clean" energy), his refusal to join the Boston Bruins at the White House to meet President Barack Obama after their Cup win, and his support of Chik-Fil-A's homophobic and religious stances.

Needless to say, I disagree with all of the above political positions, but he had a right to have and express them. And none of that had any incidence on his play. It is a fact that in the 101 years of NHL hockey, the 110 years of professional hockey and the 125 years of the sport's existence, that three-year run alone makes him one of the 100 best to ever do the job, and his very good half-seasons (1997-98 and 1998-99) and elite-level full seasons (2001-02 and 2004-05) in Finland confirm it, too.

Granted, as a former goalie and goaltending coach to minor-league players and hockey schools myself, I would never teach his "style" to large groups of students, but some of his highlight-reel, Dominik Hasek-style moves are definitely worthy of further exploration, the same way Félix Potvin's paddle-down move had a decent four-year run and may warrant getting revisited in the future.

So here is Thomas, in his full Bruins glory, wearing their white (away) uniform, on the "Silver" two-jersey version of card #122 from Upper Deck's 2012-13 Artifacts set:
It features two black game-worn jersey swatches and is numbered 35/125.

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