International Ice Hockey Federation

World of experience

World of experience

USA goalie in his 7th tourney

Published 14.05.2014 17:17 GMT+3 | Author Andy Potts
World of experience
American goalkeeper Tim Thomas saved 20 shots in the game against host Belarus. Photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images
A young USA team is drawing on the experience of veteran goalie Tim Thomas, back and refreshed after a one-year sabbatical from the game.

Don't tell veteran USA goalie Tim Thomas that the World Championship doesn't matter. While some across the Atlantic tend to assume that the competition is a distant, foreign affair, Thomas is back for his seventh stint defending the American net in the competition.

And the 40-year-old, back in full-time hockey after sitting out a one-year sabbatical, is adding vital tournament know-how to a youthful roster which draws more heavily than ever on college players and European-based talent.

Thomas. is under no illusions about how much the competition means to those who play in it.

“I’ve been at seven of these and I know that every team here is going to be a good team,” he said. “I also know how important this is for our opponents. We played Belarus in their first game as World Championship hosts and then Switzerland, which has been a strong team year after year.”

For the younger players on the roster – and Peter Laviolette’s group includes two Americans still playing college hockey – an opening game in front of a fervent Belarusian crowd brought home the significance of the event. Although the Americans ultimately cruised to a 6-1 victory, Thomas pulled off 20 saves as his team quelled an early storm before snapping home resistance with a triple-whammy of goals late in the second period.

The goalie was also instrumental in securing a tight 3-2 verdict over Switzerland, pulling off a terrific reflex save in the dying seconds – “If I had time to think about it I wouldn’t have saved it,” he admitted afterwards – before his team fell foul of a rampant Russian team buoyed by another hugely partisan crowd. In the space of three games, the drama, excitement and changing fortunes of World Championship hockey writ large, for veterans and rookies alike.

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Admittedly Thomas wasn’t expecting to be back at the competition for the seventh time. After a season that saw him traded from Florida to Dallas he had high hopes of a deep run in the Stanley Cup play-offs, only for a round one reverse against Anaheim to shatter those hopes.

“In some ways I didn't look at going to the Worlds this time,” he admitted. “I expected to be in the second round with the Dallas Stars. We had a good team and I had a really good feeling about what we might be able to accomplish but that didn't happen and here I am.”

If it was a surprise that Thomas was available for the Worlds, many were also surprised to see him back in pro hockey at all. At the end of the 2011/2012 campaign – one year after lifting the Stanley Cup with Boston – he announced he was ready to take a time-out and consider his future. But after a year off the ice he was lured back to play initially for the Panthers and then for the Dallas Stars. So why the change of heart?

"I missed the game enough to come back and want to play, to take advantage of being young enough to play," said Thomas. "But I enjoyed that year off with my family. I think we needed it at that time."

Family is something that Thomas returns to in conversation. He and his wife Melissa have three children, aged between seven and 13. Following his snap decision to head to Minsk after Dallas crashed out of the play-offs, part of the attraction was giving his children a brief glimpse of another country. "The way things happened in Dallas I had to make a quick decision. It wasn't that hard of a decision though – this my seventh World Championship and it's great to be here.

"My family's coming over and it'll be a great experience for the kids to see a championship like this over here," he said.


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