BOSTON -- In the end, Tim Thomas got his ovation.
Clearly he didn't end his stint with the Boston Bruins on the greatest of terms, and has been painted as a bit of an eccentric after leaving with a year to go on his contract to pursue "friends, faith and family" in Colorado. But the netminder was also the biggest single individual reason for the B's winning the Stanley Cup three years ago, and he was back at TD Garden for the first time on Thursday night since departing the team.
There was a curiosity as to whether the team would recognize Thomas with a moment on the Jumbotron, and there was some uncertainty if he was even in the house. But the 39-year-old goalie, who was in town with the Florida Panthers though unable to play because of injury, rolled into the ninth-floor press box at the beginning of the third period.
Shortly afterward the TD Garden game-operations people rolled out a video package with Thomas' 2011 Stanley Cup highlights during a TV timeout, and Thomas was greeted with a long, warm, appreciative standing ovation from the crowd.
It was something that was even appreciated by his former B's teammates during the game, as there were players applauding on the Boston bench.
"Timmy was an important part of this team and obviously the Cup year," said Chris Kelly. "It was nice for the fans to give him that reception. I clapped, too. I like Timmy."
Thomas stood up and waved to the fans as the video concluded, finally getting his moment of closure.
"It's great to be back at the Garden, great to be back in Boston," said Thomas to the Miami Herald. "I was hoping for that kind of reaction from the fans."