Life is hard. Not just for the writer, but for everyone, including professional athletes. Not all athletes follow a smooth path to their dream careers. There are bumps in the road – both small and large, twists and turns that threaten to toss you off course and heart breaking setbacks. We aspiring writers can learn from many of these that have struggled, only to finally reach their dreams after setbacks. Have you ever considered that an athletes’ path to winning the holy grail similar to that of publication?
It’s not hard to see that I am a sports nut. Sports and writing are my true passions. And it’s not too often (actually never before) that I find myself misty eyed while watching a sporting event. Last Wednesday night, I found myself reaching for the box of Kleenex as I watched Boston Bruins’ goaltender Tim Thomas accept not only the Conn Smythe Trophy for Most Valuable Player, but then hoist the Stanley Cup.
While 19-year-old Canuck Tyler Seguin held the Cup in his rookie season, a dream come true, Thomas’ career has not been an easy fairytale, but it does have a happy ending.
After graduating from the University of Vermont’s hockey program, Thomas found himself in the minor leagues, bouncing between the International Hockey League (IHL), East Coast Hockey League and the Finnish Elite League for seven years. Finally in 2002/2003, at the age of 28, Thomas received his big break with the Bruins, but returned to Boston’s farm team for two seasons and his fourth stint in the Finnish League. In 2005, Thomas finally landed a permanent spot in the NHL, but the struggles continued through five years in the big leagues.
When the Stanley Cup was passed to Thomas, it was a moment that marked the pinnacle to the Tim Thomas Story. He was a star that had an unorthodox rising from college hockey to the minor leagues to European hockey to NHL star – Thomas kept rising. And yet it could have all ended last year.
The oldest winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy didn’t have the best start to the season as he wasn’t even the Bruins’ starting goal when Boston opened training camp. After struggling with inconsistency and a hip injury last season that resulted in summer surgery, he fought for the No. 1 spot with 23-year-old Tuukka Rask. There were attempts by the Bruins to move Thomas in the summer, but no takers emerged for a 36-year-old with three years left on his contract. Yet Thomas didn’t give up. You can never count him out. Instead of waiting for a trade or packing it in, Thomas worked harder. He persevered through and made his fairytale ending come true. When someone doubted him, it only fuelled his fire as he worked to prove the critics wrong.
I’ve been watching hockey my entire life, but I learned a valuable lesson that I will remember. I’ve tacked a newspaper photograph of Thomas holding the Stanley Cup on my cork board just to inspire me that fairy tales can come true.