Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Teammates put Olympic rivalry behind
By Matt Kalman
BOSTON -- Bruins center Patrice Bergeron and goaltender Tim Thomas returned to their full-time jobs Tuesday in possession of the shiny fruits of their labor at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Of course, one was gold and the other silver.
Although the Canadian Bergeron, the gold-medal winner, holds some bragging rights over his U.S.-born teammate and silver-medal winner after Team Canada's overtime victory Sunday, neither was about to talk any trash to the other.
Their focus now is on the business of getting the Bruins into the playoffs.
That doesn't mean they can't still relish their possibly once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
"[Wearing the gold medal] is great. Obviously you watch the Olympics -- I've been watching the Olympics since I was a kid -- to actually be there and live the experience as an athlete has been unbelievable to me," said Bergeron, who also revealed he's day to day with a groin injury suffered during the Games. "And to actually have a gold medal, it's even more ... no one can take that away from me."
While Bergeron wasn't in his usual Bruins role as a focal point in all three zones while skating for his country, he was called on in some pressure-packed situations. And he held his own against the best in the world.
"I was fine with it," he said. "The toughest thing was to stay focused because I knew when I was going [out there], it was for a big situation -- a big faceoff or a big penalty kill. So I had to stay focused even though I wasn't playing for 10-, 15-minute stretches, which is kind of uncharacteristic for me with the Bruins, so it was different. But I thought it went pretty well. Staying focused, I thought I did it pretty well."
Thomas' role was even more limited than Bergeron's. As the backup to star goaltender Ryan Miller, Thomas had a front-row seat to all the great action and superb performances of his American teammate. An 11-minute stint of mop-up duty against Finland in the semifinals was icing on the cake for the veteran puck-stopper.
"Obviously being able to actually get in the game and get playing time was special, especially against Finland, because I know so many of those guys and have so many friends in Finland that were watching on TV," said Thomas, who starred in the Finnish Elite League before returning to the United States in 2005. "But in the long run, winning the silver medal is going to be the biggest memory."
"It was going to be one of the best experiences of my life, regardless," he continued. "But that 11 minutes in the game made the difference of 20 years from now saying I was on the Olympic team to saying I played in the Olympics. So it was special and I was very grateful to Ron Wilson and the coaching staff for giving me that opportunity and that chance."