June 18, 2015

Kimmo Timonen: Finally A Champion

In the final game of Kimmo Timonen's 16-year NHL career, the 40-year-old Finnish defenceman finally became a champion.

The Chicago Blackhawks captured their third Stanley Cup in six seasons, eliminating the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-0 in game six of the 2015 Stanley Cup final. After captain Jonathan Toews accepted the Stanley Cup from commissioner Gary Bettman, he immediately passed it to Timonen to raise above his head.

"I've been in every final there is in the hockey world, but I haven't won anything," Timonen said before Game 6. "I've always been on the losing part of this side of the story."

Timonen represented his native Finland at five Olympic, winning four medals, but never gold. He also finished with three silver medals at the World Championships, but again no golds.

The veteran Timonen started the year doubting he would ever be able to play again. In the summer of 2014 he was diagnosed with blood clots in his leg and lungs, and many doubted if he would ever play again. When he got medical clearance to return to the ice, he was traded from Philadelphia to Chicago late in the season.

Timonen played sparingly with the Hawks, as missing so much time at his age clearly left him a step behind. It must have been tough for a proud warrior to know he was overmatched and not helping his team as much as he once did.

It was even tougher on his family. His wife could not watch the earlier playoff games as she was concerned about his health.

Timonen was the captain of the Nashville Predators during his first eight NHL seasons in the NHL.

Quiet and unassuming, he was described by coach Barry Trotz as a poor man's Nicklas Lidstrom.

"He doesn't get a lot of fan fair, you don't hear him in the press a lot talking about different things. He just says, 'I will show you on the ice,'" Trotz said. "His importance since he's been with us has been dramatic. He has been high impact."

He did not get a lot of fan fair is an understatement. He really was one of hockey's best kept secrets. He played against the top forwards in the league and handled them all defensively, while also quarterbacking Nashville's offense from the rear.

Traded to Philadelphia with Scott Hartnell in 2007, he became a key member of the Flyers blue line for seven more seasons. He helped the Flyers to the 2010 Stanley Cup final, only to lose to, oddly enough, the Chicago Blackhawks.

"(Timonen) is such a great human being off the ice, on the ice," Flyers forward Jakub Voracek said. "It's a really good example for me. I was 21, 22 when I got here. He showed me the way, how to be a better person and how to be a better hockey player. That guy's a pro every single way. ... I'm very happy for him that he's got a chance to battle for a Stanley Cup because he really deserves it."

Timonen retired with 1108 regular season games played in his career. He scored 117 goals, 454 assists and 571 points. He added another four goals and 35 points in 105 Stanley Cup playoff games.

And, at long last, one Stanley Cup.

No comments: