First Olympic appearance for Thomas

BOSTON -- Ever since he returned from Europe and became the Boston Bruins' No. 1 netminder and one of the world's premier puck-stoppers, Tim Thomas has been compiling a highlight reel anyone who has ever put on pads would envy.

Bigger and better things could be ahead for Thomas, but as of now the day of the 2010 Winter Classic will be the climax of that reel. Not only did he make 24 saves in a 2-1 overtime victory over the Philadelphia Flyers at Fenway Park on Friday, Thomas -- as expected -- also learned that he made the U.S. Olympic team for February's Winter Games in Vancouver.

"Just this whole day overall, this will go down as one of the most memorable days of my life and career," said Thomas after the game and the announcement. "Between winning the way that we won, and being named to the U.S. Olympic team. Being named to the Olympic team, as I've said before, I've been waiting 30 years for this. I feel like I've been waiting my whole life for this opportunity.

"You know, to be able to be named at your home crowd, but at Fenway Park, I mean you add those things together, this is a story that will be told for the rest of my life."

Thomas said he found out he'd made the team Friday morning, which was "good because I was able to control my emotions. I think I would have been a blubbering mess on national television if I would have found out right before." Instead, he was able to stay composed when the announcement was made on NBC moments after the game. No one that knows Thomas' life story, however, would've blamed him for becoming a fountain of tears had he let his emotions fly.

Just five years ago he was starring in Finland after years playing in Europe and every minor league in North America. It didn't seem like he'd ever get a chance to become an NHL goaltender, never mind a star. The Bruins have turned out to be the perfect home for Thomas ever since he returned in 2005. A couple multi-year contracts, a couple All-Star berths and a Vezina Trophy later, he's headed to Vancouver to represent his homeland on the world's biggest stage.

"I think I had pretty much given up on [the Olympics] knowing, realistically, if you're playing the rest of your career in Europe, which is what I thought at one point I was going to be doing, you're probably not going to make the Olympic team," said Thomas, whose dream of playing for Team USA in the Olympics was revitalized when he was invited to orientation camp last summer. "Because there are goalies in the NHL that are going to get first dibs because they are playing in the highest league in the world."

There are still six weeks of playing for the Bruins ahead for Thomas before the Olympics. Those games should provide the veteran a chance to solidify Boston's playoff positioning and make a case that he can start over Buffalo's Ryan Miller in Vancouver.

"It will come down to who plays the best in the last couple of weeks leading into the Olympics," he said. "It's not a battle against each other so much as it is a battle to ourselves to both be at the top of our game heading into the Olympic stretch."

The selection of Thomas gives the Bruins five Olympians. Forward Patrice Bergeron (Canada), center David Krejci (Czech Republic), defenseman Zdeno Chara (Slovakia) and winger Marco Sturm (Germany) also have been named to their respective countries' squads.

Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.