Alumni Column: Tribute to Tim Thomas

I always look forward to my near annual return to campus, but the weekend of Sept. 3 will forever live in my memory thanks to Tim Thomas.

For Thomas, it was the culmination of persistence and determination, the seeds of which I had the privilege to witness and cover as the hockey reporter for The Cynic.

Thus, there I was amidst the throng of revelers on Church Street on Sept. 3 when it began to resonate more profoundly why this moment was so meaningful to me as a fan of hockey, a Vermont alum and a Boston sports lifer.

I was struck by the common themes to his impromptu speeches and the answers to the reporters in the press conference afterwards: Community. Family. Setting goals. Staying motivated to attain new goals. Inspiring others.

Anyone who has followed the Thomas’ career and the stories that have emerged of his dogged determination and passion for the sport can agree there could have been no better choice to receive the honor that he received.

Whenever any Catamount alum accomplishes something that captures the attention of the rest of the nation in a positive light, naturally it is a source of pride for us all.

A part of me knew that while watching the likes of LeClair with my cow-bell ringing freshmen brethren in 1990, and following that by getting to view St. Louis, Perrin, Soucy, Miller and Thomas from the press box when I finally earned my reporter’s stripes by my sophomore year, that I was watching a special era for UVM hockey.

If you were to tell me some 17 years after my last article, among that shortlist mentioned above stands a collection of four — arguably five — Stanley Cups, two Vezina Trophys, two Conn Smythes, two Lady Bings, one Art Ross and one Hart Memorial trophy … well, just typing that last sentence has me beaming at this end of the keyboard. 

I am left to look back also at the nearly two decades that have passed since my days perched high above the ice of the “Gut” and how my own life has taken somewhat parallel yet distinctively circuitous twists and turns from a professional standpoint, not unlike that of one Tim Thomas.

My major never changed in four years and I always knew what I wanted to do professionally, it was just that I may have taken longer than some to stumble upon the right opportunity.

And if it meant I needed to try something else for a while to keep busy, I was more than happy to try to fill in where I was needed most and to make full use of what skills I had.

Deciding I needed to work harder to ultimately get what I wanted, I went back to what I knew I was passionate about, got myself an advanced degree.

The pursuit of this dream was born at UVM. Is this starting to sound familiar to anyone else besides me?

In any event, it is unlikely that as I continue to strive toward my professional goals that I’ll ever be called upon to give some impromptu acceptance speech. But if there’s one thing that stands out about the way Thomas conducts himself — and St. Louis before him — it is by their grace and humility in the midst of all that they have accomplished from which we can all stand to learn.

Thomas appropriately credited the support of the community that became his home, especially when he chose to marry a Vermont native, even going so far as to trot out the tried and true “behind every good man” line during his brief address to the Church St. crowd.

In the virtually identical speeches given the last two seasons by St. Louis as he received his Lady Byngs, he prominently features his wife and children.

It is clear that these two gentlemen have their priorities straight in life in this writer’s view, and also that the Facebook props I bestowed upon my wife for accompanying me back to campus on our anniversary fell woefully short of my profound appreciation for her support all these years.

Let’s just say I’m still trying to perfect my inner Thomas. If there’s one thing that I definitively have in common with Timmy, it is his assessment of all that has come to pass. He said of this wild summer that among all the events, the parades in Boston and Burlington were his favorites.

So were mine Tim. So were mine.