BOSTON -- Neither played a leading role in their respective countries’ triumphs at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, but Bruins center Patrice Bergeron and goaltender Tim Thomas returned to their full-time jobs Tuesday in possession of the shiny fruits of their labor.
The Canadian Bergeron, a 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, however, was about to talk any trash now that their focus has to turn to 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 out 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,” said the Bruins pivot. “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.”
While Bergeron will not be able to help the Bruins at the outset of their post-break schedule because of his groin injury, Thomas should be called upon soon because Boston is playing almost every other night through the end of the season. He hasn’t made a start for the Bruins or any team since Feb. 2. However, he was practicing hard before the break and then got to test himself against an All-Star contingent of U.S. shooters during practice at the Olympics. Whenever Bruins starter Tuukka Rask needs a night off, Thomas thinks he’ll be ready.
“I don’t think my game was ever really lost, contrary to what a lot of the media in Boston has liked to focus on,” he said. “The numbers aren’t exactly the same as last year, but not every year goes exactly the same and not every goalie wins the Vezina every year. So I feel OK about where it’s at. I felt in a good enough spot where I could’ve helped for Team USA and done the job if I needed to. Ryan Miller was exceptional; I’m not saying that. I think that was the right move. But I’ll just be ready when called upon here.”
* Slovakian Olympians Zdeno Chara and Miroslav Satan both returned to the Bruins Tuesday as well. They had been off since losing the bronze medal game Saturday. Bruins head coach Claude Julien said that both will play in games and try to get some rest, if needed, on practice days. Chara was by far the most taxed Bruins Olympian in terms of ice time, but Julien doesn’t think that’ll limit his ability to contribute to the Bruins’ cause.
“If ‘Zee’ was capable of playing 20-something minutes in the final game, I don’t see why three days later he can’t play that for us. If he needs rest, he can take some practices off and we’ll deal with that situation as we move on,” said the coach.
* The Bruins announced that they acquired the rights to Michigan defenseman Steve Kampfer from Anaheim in exchange for a fourth-round pick. The 5-foot-11, 188-pound Kampfer has posted two goals and 17 points in 37 games for the Wolverines this season.