A fine NHL career came to a glorious end for Kimmo Timonen. The 40-year-old ended a difficult 2014-15 season in the best way possible, hoisting the Stanley Cup over his head for the first time.
Timonen’s 16th campaign in the league almost didn’t take place as, while still a member of the Philadelphia Flyers, he was diagnosed with blood clots in both lungs as well as his right leg prior to training camp. The veteran managed to recover and work himself back into playing shape but never suited up for the Flyers, who dealt him to the Chicago Blackhawks on February 27.
A five-time All-Star, Timonen appeared in 16 games for Chicago but did not register a point, finishing the regular-season portion of his career with 117 goals and 454 assists in 1,108 contests. He was in the lineup for each of the Blackhawks’ first 15 postseason games but received a limited amount of ice time, often seeing less than 10 minutes of action.
“I just try to be part of the team and be positive,” Timonen told NHL.com. “If guys make a good play, say ‘Good job’ and that kind of stuff. It’s a great team sport, and I’m part of the team. Not as big a part as I used to be, but I’m still there.”
With Chicago down 3-2 to the Anaheim Ducks in the Western Conference final and already forced to rotate several inexperienced defensemen in and out of the lineup due to an injury to Michal Rozsival, Timonen was a healthy scratch for Games 6 and 7 of the series, as well as the first three contests of the Stanley Cup Final versus the Tampa Bay Lightning. It appeared as though the Finn had seen the last of an NHL ice surface.
But with his club in a 2-1 series hole, coach Joel Quenneville made a bold move and decided to replace Kyle Cumiskey with Timonen for Game 4. Timonen played only 5:46 on eight shifts, but the Blackhawks pulled out a 2-1 victory to even the matchup.He remained in the lineup for Games 5 and 6, getting a total of 8:44 of ice time. But that didn’t matter to the aging blue-liner. All he cared about at that point was lifting the greatest trophy in sports.
“I’ve been dreaming about this for the last 17 years,” Timonen told NBC afterward. “This game gave me a lot, but I gave everything to this game. And I’m leaving this game as a Stanley Cup champion.”
The Blackhawks defeated the Lightning 2-0 in Game 6 at the United Center, and captain Jonathan Toews displayed his class by making sure Timonen’s long-awaited wish came to fruition as soon as possible. After receiving the Cup from commissioner Gary Bettman, Toews immediately handed it to Timonen, making good on the promise he made to his teammate earlier in the day.
“I’ve been on the losing side of the story so many times that I know guys realize that,” Timonen told NHL.com. “They know I’m going to retire. This was my last game, my last time with skates on. The respect level goes both ways.”
Selected by Los Angeles in the 10th round of the 1993 draft, Timonen remained in his native Finland before being traded in 1998 to the Nashville Predators, who had yet to play their first game in the NHL. The deal was made with the agreement that Nashville wouldn’t pluck defenseman Garry Galley from the Kings in the expansion draft.
Timonen spent eight productive seasons with the Predators, earning the captaincy prior to the 2006-07 campaign – his last with the team. Following that season, he was dealt to Philadelphia along with fellow free-agent-to-be Scott Hartnell and signed a six-year contract.
During his impressive tenure with the Flyers, Timonen nearly achieved his goal as the team reached the Stanley Cup Final in 2010 but fell to Chicago in six games. Little did he know that he would win the championship with the club that squashed his dream six years earlier.
“I leave this game as a Stanley Cup champion,” Timonen told NHL.com. “I can’t ask for anything more than that.”