By Chris Emma–
CHICAGO (CBS) — At long last, the Stanley Cup was in Kimmo Timonen’s hands. It was handed to him by Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, and the long-awaited moment had arrived.
“Holy s—t,” Timonen said.
A 40-year-old defenseman and 16-year NHL veteran, Timonen grasped the Cup, glanced and smiled, then unleashed a loud scream and hoisted it toward the United Center rafters.
But even after a long wait for that first moment with Lord Stanley’s prize, his second was even better. Timonen shared it with his family, lifting the Cup individually with each of his three children. He turned the page from hockey player to full-time father on a remarkable occasion.
“That’s the coolest moment of my life,” Timonen said. “It can’t get better than that.”
Timonen could have retired after a successful 15 seasons and four All-Star appearances. Prior to Monday, the closest he had come to the Cup was getting deked by Patrick Kane for the Blackhawks’ series-winner in Game 6 of the 2010 Stanley Cup Final. Blood clots in his lungs and leg were reason to hang up the skates, but one more shot at a championship drove Timonen back for one more season.
After earning a clean bill of health, Timonen requested a trade from Philadelphia and ended up in Chicago, going from out of contention to an NHL favorite. He arrived at O’Hare Airport with one last opportunity and a 20-year-old waiting as his ride into town. That was Teuvo Teravainen.
“He’s been like my second dad since he came here,” said Teravainen, overwhelmed for his mentor.
In Chicago, Timonen saw his one last chance before retirement. He believed the core of Kane, Toews, Duncan Keith and Co. could help him get to that lift of the Cup. That moment arrived Monday night.
“I was very proud of him,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “Especially coming here. Wanted to come here. Wanted to end his career with a chance to win the Cup. Very fitting.”
Before returning to hockey, Timonen spent countless hours with doctors. He joked that they grew sick of his constant presence. But few in sports get to go out on their own terms. It was an opportunity nearly taken from Timonen.
Further adversity followed during this Stanley Cup run, as Quenneville made Timonen a healthy scratch during the Western Conference Final. Timonen voiced frustration prior to Game 3 of the Cup Final. He was back in the lineup for Games 4, 5 and the clincher in Game 6, playing his best Blackhawk hockey yet.
A tremendous NHL career came to an end with Timonen finally getting a chance to hoist the Cup.
“I’m leaving this game happy, relieved, ready,” he said. “I’m leaving as a Stanley Cup champion, so I don’t know if you can ask any more.”
Follow Chris on Twitter @CEmma670.