Q. I know that you've probably been asked this numerous times along the way. When it comes to yourself and Dwayne, is age really a factor? Are people making a big deal about the fact that you guys are older?
TIM THOMAS: I think if age is a factor in any way, it's actually a benefit to both of us. The experiences that we've been through just to get to these points in our career, they actually do help. They do help in this playoff-type atmosphere. If anything, I'd say that the age works to our advantage.
But in this case we're so close and we're both in the higher age category for this business that I don't think it's really an advantage either way.
Q. You talked about Dwayne a little bit. If it wasn't for him, you wouldn't have ended up going to UVM, is that correct?
TIM THOMAS: When I decided where I had to go to school, UMass Lowell was one of the schools that recruited me. Dwayne Roloson was a junior who was an All-American who was returning as a senior the next year. The coach of UMass Lowell, he was up front and said they wanted me to go there, but if I went, I could either redshirt or probably play max three games. That's ultimately why I ended up going to Vermont, because I had a chance to play right away.
Q. Your relationship with Marty, the '96 team, the fact that you're in the position you are now?
TIM THOMAS: Marty is one of the greatest competitors I've ever played with, I've ever even seen play. You know, it's unfortunate that we have to play together. That's the way it works out, though. You know, but I couldn't have more respect for a person as a player and as a human being than I do for Marty.
Q. Tim, I'm wondering if you're a fan or student of goaltending history. Are you familiar with guys like Johnny Bower? As someone who has been around for years and years to get to basically where you are now?
TIM THOMAS: I'm familiar with Johnny Bowers' story. He played till he was 44. Actually he said he'd still play if they allowed him to sit in the chair when the puck is at the other end (laughter).
Those were stories that gave me hope when I was younger, when I wasn't getting a chance at the NHL level or making it to the NHL level, that made me believe there was still a chance.
Actually in a roundabout way, when I wasn't in the NHL, I was looking at Dwayne Roloson. He made it to the NHL, I don't know how long it took him after he got out of college, but he really had to work his way up before he got those number one jobs, he was a backup to Hasek. He was a backup in a couple places, had to work his way up the ladder.
I saw that he was doing it. Seeing other stories like that, we were in the situation I was in, it's something that can give you hope.
Q. Have you ever met him?
TIM THOMAS: Yes, at the Montreal All-Star Game. I have a picture of me sitting next to him in the locker room on my fridge.
Q. Tim, just wondering from a mental standpoint, when you're on such a roll, what the eight-day break does for you and how difficult it is to get back into the mental or physical groove?
TIM THOMAS: Well, it is what it is. I had experience in my career, even probably once or twice this season, where I've had that eight-day break. Coming back after it, you just try to be as ready as you can. You know, you can never really tell till you get out there playing for sure exactly how you're going to feel. You can think you're going to pick up where you left off without a beat. Sometimes that may not be the case, but sometimes it is the case. I'm hoping for the latter. I'm hoping I can pick up right where I left off.
Q. I'm thinking your first three or four years out of UVM, Marty, too, Marty was going to Calgary and Tampa.
TIM THOMAS: He started out in Cleveland.
Q. Did the two of you have conversations, Do you think you're going to make it, I know I'm going to make it, whatever?
TIM THOMAS: No, not really. We talked about it in college when we were playing together. But then when we were done with college, he went to Cleveland to play. Québec/Colorado owned my rights. I ended up going to Colorado. I ended up that year playing in the East Coast Hockey League, then Houston. My point being, that was pre-cellphone days, pretty much pre-Internet. At least email wasn't that popular of a thing to do. Internet was just beginning to turn into something that you could really use.
My senior year in college, we got a 36K modem, we thought we were flying (laughter). The only times that we saw each other were in the summer. We were only speaking a little bit in the summertimes.
I'm not sure if I saw him the very first summer after our first year. Might have been a couple of years. But then when I played in Hamilton in '99 maybe, '98, I don't know, we went to St. John's for a trip, Marty was playing for St. John's Flames. I went over to his house for dinner. We talked a little bit then.
Without saying it, I think we both thought we were just going to find a way, were going to keep kicking the can until we found a way.
Q. Tim, I know you talked a little yesterday about the time you spent in Lightning training camp in 1999. What do you remember about those weeks you spent there?
TIM THOMAS: Well, we stayed at a hotel, and they had a pool. There was a lot of little lizards around (laughter).
But, no, it was just kind of odd to attend training camp. You're always attending training camp at the end of summer, so it's still pretty good weather. When you attend a training camp normally, it's turning to fall. One of the things I remember from that Tampa Bay training camp is it was so different. It was really hot. All the training camp conditions were hot and humid.
I remember I believe it was Vinny Lecavalier’s first camp and I remember that fight he got into with Stojanov. Stojanov was a tough guy. He didn't want to fight Vinny, but Vinny kept coming after him. We discussed what a terrible situation he was in, Stojanov.
I mean, I remember stuff here and there, you know. Daren Puppa was the goalie for the Lightning at the time. Jay Feaster, it was his first year there. I remember a quick conversation I had on the plane with him, stuff like that. Nothing that really sticks out.
Q. Would you say you've put more emphasis on your off-season workouts as you have gotten older?
TIM THOMAS: Yes. One thing you learn in this game if you want to keep playing, at least at the highest level, as you age, the way it works is you get to take less and less time off in the summer. You have to spend more and more time preparing yourself for the season.
Last year I was preparing at the same time that I was rehabbing my hip, but it was actually very, very good training for me. Basically you can pretty much talk to any of the older players, and that's the way it works. The key is not to let yourself ever really fall out of shape because that's what gets hard as you get older: Once you fall out of shape, getting back into shape, getting the speed at the highest level that you need to compete against these young kids. Definitely something I've learned over the years.
Q. Tim, you talked a lot when you went to the Olympics about how much you appreciated, were going to enjoy it. How much with what you just said, are you appreciating this year day-to-day practices, being with the team?
TIM THOMAS: Maybe not so much practices. But you appreciate every game more. At the beginning of the season, I was very appreciative of the fact that I was still able to just play in the NHL. As it went on, I was appreciative of the fact that I could not only play in the NHL, but play in the NHL and play to a level that satisfied me.
Now that we're in the playoffs, I'm very appreciative of the opportunity that the playoffs present. They don't come around that often. I heard older guys say that when I was younger in my career, even in the lower-league levels, that chances to win championships don't come around that often. You're young, you think you're going to have plenty of opportunities. They were trying to pass down wisdom that sometimes you don't understand until you've actually walked that walk.
I walked that walk, and I realize how hard it is just to get to the Eastern Conference Final after what we've been over the past few years. I'm very appreciative of the fact that I'm still playing, not one of the teams watching on TV at home. I've done that enough.
Q. With that in mind, when did you have a sense that this team had the capability of doing something special? How much does that motivate your play?
TIM THOMAS: I think it just is something that built all year long. We would show signs of it at times early in the season. It's a tough grind throughout the regular season where you're not always able to play at your top level. Even during those times, we were finding ways to win games. That's very important. We had a few comebacks during the regular season, which has served us well, because we used that in the playoffs.
So I think it was a confidence that grew throughout the year. But then you can think you know what you got. Till you get to playoffs, you don't really know for sure what you have as a group. I think that the first round against Montréal was a testing-ground for us. We started it out right away from some adversity, getting down in the series 2-0. We started to find out what we were made of.
Come to find out, we're made of some pretty stern stuff. We have a lot of the things that it takes to win a championship, hopefully all of them.
Q. Tim, if I'm right, I would compare your style and Roloson's style as similar in that they've been adaptive. Am I right about that? Do you think that's a product of age? Will we see the kids now who are the 25-year-old goaltenders experience the same thing?
TIM THOMAS: There are some similarities between me and Dwayne's style. So you are right in that. They're not obviously completely the same.
I think it's a matter of you have to evolve to try to put yourself at the highest levels in this game. I mean, I know a little bit of Dwayne's background. I did play against him my freshman year when we were in college, saw his style back then. Then I saw his style as it evolved on TV to the style that he had, for example, when he was with the Edmonton Oilers. Now that style has changed even more, probably as a necessity of the new NHL, which changed my style again.
I've been through actually a few style changes throughout my career out of necessity. Coming out of college, I had absolutely no style. But I was still was having some success at least at that level with it. My first year pro, I had to learn the basic Québec butterfly techniques just to stay in the game because I knew that I wasn't going to make it to the next level, not because I couldn't stop the puck doing it my way, but because I looked different than everybody else. My first Colorado camp, they drilled and drilled and drilled me on learning these Québec techniques, which at the time made it more difficult for me to save the puck. I had easier ways that I could get it done.
Once I started to practice those techniques, which I did a lot my rookie year, even when I was in Finland, I continued with the drills that I was shown. I started to learn how they could be used and applied to the game. But then a lot of those techniques are helpful, but once the equipment changed from 12 inch to 11 inch, the size of the equipment got cut down, those other techniques didn't work as well. Some of the butterfly techniques that I had learned, you needed to play a different style - at least a guy my size, for sure.
I began to learn to play another way. It probably turned into, just like it has for me and Dwayne Roloson, a hybrid. I think the major force for the change in style in my career, and probably Dwayne's, is necessity.
Q. Tim, what has this break been like for you mentally, physically? Was there a highlight? What was the highlight of this break for you?
TIM THOMAS: I mean, it was a good week. It's awkward to have this week off when you're playing in the playoffs. A part of you certainly just wants to keep going. It helped knowing that Tampa was actually in the same exact situation so that everything is going to be equal starting tomorrow. We've had other series where, for example a couple years ago, Carolina, they came off a long series while we'd been sitting and waiting. We started the next series, and they were in full playoff mode. It took us a while to catch up.
In this case, I used it to relax as much as I could, but not let my guard down, try to keep the edge that you need to keep so that you can get right back into it tomorrow. I think that's all you can do.