It’s something that is a goal of every NHL player. Yet for the Chicago Blackhawks’ Kimmo Timonen, it is something that he is grateful to have one last chance at winning the Stanley Cup.
The Blackhawks shutout the Lightning in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final to win the series 4-2 and with that came a celebration all throughout Chicago. For many Blackhawks players, this was either the second or third time they were able to hoist the Stanley Cup.
For Kimmo Timonen, this moment was extra special. The 40-year-old defenseman had made it clear at the beginning of the season that the 2014-15 season would be his last. He also made it clear that he had one main reason for continuing to play when many suggested he hang up his skates: Chasing his dream of winning the Stanley Cup.
Timonen’s illustrious NHL career began when he was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings in 1993. Timonen was then traded to the expansion Nashville Predators prior to the franchise beginning play.
His first full season with the Predators was in 1999-2000, and he would remain a mainstay in Nashville until the end of the 2006-07 season when he was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers. While in Nashville, Timonen never saw past the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. However, things went better for him in Philadelphia.
In his first season with the Flyers, the team advanced all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals before being eliminated in 5 games. Two years later, he nearly accomplished his biggest career goal. The Flyers were in the midst of a Cinderella run that saw them facing the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Final. Unfortunately for Timonen, the Flyers fell just two wins short of winning the Cup. So, the dream had to wait a little longer.
Fast forward four years to the summer of 2014, and Timonen was hit with news that nearly brought the dream to a screeching halt. The now-39-year-old was diagnosed with blood clots in his leg and lungs.
Many felt that that meant the end of Timonen’s career. However, Timonen’s desire to win the Stanley Cup and go out on his terms helped him battle back and return to the ice for one final season.
“Last August I didn’t know if I could play anymore, but my desire was so deep inside that I wanted to give it one more shot.” he said during a post game interview.
Although he returned for part of the 2014-15 season, it was not with the Flyers. By the time he made his return, it became clear that the Flyers were not going to make the playoffs. Because of that and Timonen okaying a trade to a contender with a good shot at the Cup, he was dealt to the Chicago Blackhawks for a second round pick in 2015 and a conditional fourth round pick in 2016.
Although it was not the way his tenure in Philadelphia was expected to end, his trade to the Blackhawks meant that he had one last chance to make his dream a reality.
In Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final, the reality of it all really began to sink in. Timonen had been on the losing end of the Stanley Cup Final in his only other appearance, the losing end of the Gold Medal game of the 2006 Olympics, and the losing end of three IIHF World Championships.
June 15 was different. As Patrick Kane scored to give the Blackhawks the 2-0 lead, a jubilant Timonen could barely contain himself as he knew that his dream was going to become a reality.
“I was crying a little bit,” Timonen said following the Blackhawks’ celebration. “There were tears coming out of my eyes because I knew that it was going to be … two goals against this team, it was going to be hard to score. I knew we had a really good chance to win it.”
As the clock ticked down to zero, the disappointments of the past didn’t matter anymore. Kimmo Timonen, at long last, was a Stanley Cup Champion.
After receiving the Stanley Cup from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, Blackhawks’ captain Jonathan Toews answered the question of “Who’s going to get the Cup next?” with two short sentences. “Come here Kimmo! Come get it baby!” Toews shouted after having his own skate with the Cup.
For Kimmo Timonen, it’s the perfect ending for a long, illustrious, and sometimes difficult career. Regardless of what happened in the past, regardless of all of the championships he was on the losing end of, he will retire a Stanley Cup Champion.
Timonen himself summed it up best when interviewed after he got his much deserved skate with the Cup:
“I leave this game as a Stanley Cup Champion, I can’t ask for anything more than that.”