Blackhawks' Kimmo Timonen retiring after Stanley Cup final
TAMPA - With grey flecks in his scraggly beard and a mischievous smile on his veteran face, Kimmo Timonen is savouring every precious moment that remains in his professional hockey career.
That’s because it’s about to end.
For a second time.
As he addressed the media throng huddled in the Blackhawks dressing room Saturday morning, the veteran defenceman confirmed what everyone pretty much knew: That he would retire once the playoffs came to an end.
“I’m really trying to enjoy these last few days because let’s be honest: It’s five days left in my career,” Timonen said before Game 5 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Know this: Timonen is embracing every last second of it, too. When you’ve been given a second lease on your hockey life like he was earlier this season, everything becomes that much more special.
Standing in front of a sea of reporters, Timonen admits he never expected to be in this place. Not here. Not now. Not after blood clots were found in his lower right leg and both lungs last August.
He somewhat recovered in the ensuing months, but it’s a condition that never really goes away. The decision was a very black-and-white one: Do you assume some danger and return at some point or do you hang your blades up for good?
Said Timonen: “Obviously that time when the doctors said it’s up to you I had to go to my family and say ‘OK, what do you guys think about this?’ My wife (Johanna) said ‘no’ at first but then she was like ‘OK, let’s meet these doctors together.’ Then she was able to say ‘OK.”’
We suspect Johanna isn’t completely on board because she has refused to watch games since hubby Kimmo returned to the ice. She does stay in touch with him via text after the final horn has sounded.
To make sure he responds?
“To make sure I’m alive,” he said.
Cue the laughter.
Of course, when it’s time to get down to serious business, Timonen is the first to tell you that blood clots are no laughing matter. In fact, he knows the risk he is under each and every time he steps onto the ice.
“Every time when you get blood clots in your lungs there’s a really good chance it’s going to happen again,” Timonen said. “That’s what they are afraid of. Usually the second time is worse than the first. So we just tried to eliminate the chance that that would happen.
“It’s an every day process and it will be an every day process when the hockey ends. I just have to take care of myself and make sure I’m following the doctors instruction and information, that kind of stuff.
“So far so good.”
Timonen, 40, came back to hockey late in the season for one reason: to win a Stanley Cup. And when the Philadelphia Flyers dealt his rights to the Chicago Blackhawks at the trade deadline for what ended up being two second-round picks, he got that chance.
It wasn’t easy. He hadn’t laced up a pair of skates in eight months. But that didn’t stop him.
“I’m living in a dream,” he said. “Where I left in August and I’m standing here, it’s crazy. It’s crazy what I went through.
“There’s a risk involved obviously, but I wanted to do it. It was totally up to me and I wanted to take that chance, to have one more chance. We’re still far away, we’re two wins away (as of Saturday morning), but in my dreams I was picturing this situation in December. Even by the deadline when we were talking about different teams, and options, you never know.
“I knew this team is really good, they have a really good chance to make something great, but you never know. I’m just really happy to be here and having this chance.”
When he closes the book on his illustrious career next week, win or lose, he’ll look back and covet the success he’s had in the NHL, a ride in which he accrued 571 points in 1,108 regular season games. All that remains is that elusive Stanley Cup.
By this time next week, we’ll know if he’s reached that goal. Either way, just the fact that he’s part of the Cup final is a victory in itself.