Finnish defence man Kimmo Timonen will be playing his 1,000th NHL career game tonight against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Timonen’s story is one of inspiration to a young aspiring athlete. His story is about never giving up and fighting to achieve his dream.
Timonen is not the biggest of players and in NHL standards, should have never become a established defender in the league. At 178cm (5’10”), he is overshadowed in size by many frontline defenders in the NHL, however, Timonen has made it work. He has an unrelenting work ethic and has a great eye for the game, which has helped him along the way.
When he was drafted by Los Angeles Kings in 1993, he was told that he would never play in the NHL as he was not big enough, he wasn’t enough of a deterrent to play on the power play. However, Timonen, now in his 14th NHL season, has made it work in the NHL and has become one of the most respected D-men in the game. He has appeared in four NHL All-Star games, and has played under 70 games in a season only twice in his career (1998-1999 and 1999-2000, his first two seasons in the NHL).
Timonen made his break with the Nashville Predators and was a key part of the teams’ defence during its formative years. He was even named captain of the team for the 2006-2007 NHL season, however he was dealt to the Philadelphia Flyers during the off season. Timonen has been a core element of the Flyers defence since then and has now taken an even bigger role with the absence of Chris Pronger.
Timonen is known for logging big minutes on the ice and has this season averaged 21minutes and 16 seconds of ice time per game, only Barydon Coburn and Claude Giroux have logged more minutes per game on the Flyers’ roster than Timonen, who is 38. Not bad going for the ‘old’ guy. At the time of writing this, Timonen is ranked 4th on the Flyers’ point scoring and is one of only five players who have a positive +/- rating on the Flyers’ roster.
I think one of the moments that will stick with me from Timonen’s career is a picture of him from the 2009-2010 Stanley Cup Finals. I saw a picture of him in a Finnish paper and the guy looked physically tired. The tiredness and the injuries he was carrying was visible on his face, but when you heard him speak and read the interview, there was a burning desire to win. The desire of reaching that goal by squeezing every last little drop of energy out of your body, no matter how much it hurt and no matter how badly something at the back of the head was screaming “no more!”. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be. Timonen said then, and has said after every lost Stanley Cup Play-Off series, that he has a taste of s**t in his mouth as the ultimate goal was not realised. A sign of a true winner, when nothing else except hoisting the cup will do. Timonen admitted in an interview with Finnish Urheilulehti that winning the Stanley Cup is what drives him.
So ahead of tonight’s game, congratulations on your achievement Kimmo. It has been a long hard road that you have traveled and hopefully one day, you will realize your dream and hoist the cup.