Timonen brings message to Flyers

PHILADELPHIA FLYERS Kimmo and Fiona Timonen display Olympic bronze medal to Fiona's first-grade class at the Haddonfield Central Elementary School.
PHILADELPHIA FLYERS Kimmo and Fiona Timonen display Olympic bronze medal to Fiona's first-grade class at the Haddonfield Central Elementary School.
Posted: February 28, 2014

A DEFIANT Kimmo Timonen took his glimmering bronze medal out of a green Rolex box and held it up for all to see in the Flyers' locker room yesterday.

"What a showoff!" teammate Hal Gill chirped.

Timonen laughed.

He was proud of the latest addition to his Olympic medal collection, to go along with two other bronze (2010, 1998) and one silver (2006) decorations. This one meant a little more than the rest.

"I kept reading that some of you [media] thought we didn't have a chance," Timonen said, just about as fiery as he can be during press conferences. "I'll show you the medal. Maybe you'll change your mind."

More than 60 percent of Finland's 5 million residents tuned in to watch their country's 5-0 romp last Saturday of an emotionally gutted United States team.

"It was like a dream come true," Timonen said.

Timonen's parents were in the stands in Sochi for the entire 2-week journey, savoring every last minute of their son in the blue "Suomi" jersey. Saturday was Timonen's 120th and final time - dating back to when he was 16 years old in 1992 - representing Finland in international competition.

When the final horn sounded in Bolshoy Ice Dome, there was lots of hugging. Even a few tears. In many ways, Saturday's test for a medal was the end of an era in Finnish hockey.

It was likely not only Timonen's last game for Finland, but also the end of the rope for familiar faces like 43-year-old Teemu Selanne, even Sami Salo, 39, and Olli Jokinen, 35 - national team stalwarts who have made Finland an international force for a generation.

Five Olympics. Seven World Championships. Three World Junior Championships. One World Cup of Hockey. Timonen's record of service to his country is tough to top.

"The way it ended, it was emotional for me and everyone there," Timonen said. "I knew it was going to be my last time putting that jersey on. We all knew it was our last time. It's been a long time."

Timonen will have at least another day or two to savor his Olympic experience. Coach Craig Berube announced after yesterday's practice that Timonen would not be playing tonight against San Jose, giving him another day to rest his 38-year-old legs.

Timonen played six games in 10 days in Sochi. Tonight, the Flyers are embarking on a sprint toward the Stanley Cup playoffs with 23 games over the final 46 days.

"It was almost like skating in mud," Timonen said of yesterday's practice. "We celebrated for a couple days, let's put it that way. I got back here Monday. It's been kind of weird the last 2 days, tough to sleep. We were on the plane for 14 hours. I'm not a young boy anymore, so it takes time to recover."

Jake Voracek returned from the Olympics last Friday. With the 9-hour time change, Voracek said he had to resist the urge to fall asleep by 9 o'clock at night in Russia. He was exhausted. By the time he fully acclimated, it was time to return to Philadelphia. Voracek said his first night of sound sleep was Tuesday.

For Berube, the decision to rest Timonen was a relatively easy one - as Timonen will be relied on for heavy minutes throughout the final 6 weeks of the season. Timonen was nursing a foot injury and didn't dress for the Flyers' 5-2 win in San Jose.

Plus, Timonen's spot does not force Berube to choose either Andrej Meszaros or Erik Gustafsson, both of whom can be showcased before next Wednesday's trade deadline. As has been rumored all season, Boston reportedly expressed interest in Meszaros as recently as Tuesday.

When Timonen held up his medal in the locker room, it wasn't for bragging rights, much to Gill's dismay. Timonen wanted to impress upon his teammates the story instilled in the shiny jewelry.

Few picked the Finns to win a medal. They were missing Saku and Mikko Koivu on a team already devoid of stars, aside from Selanne. Tuukka Rask missed the semifinal game against rival Sweden, a one-goal loss.

Yet no country, probably not even Canada, banded together like Finland.

"It's a good showing that you never know. It's a team sport. We played as a team," Timonen said. "It was good showing the Flyers that if you play as a team, you can beat anyone. There's a couple goals in my life: It's winning a gold medal and winning a Stanley Cup. If we come together as a team, I really believe we have a good chance."

Steve Mason was nursing a finger injury after practice yesterday. Mason posted a 4-1-0 record with a .955 save percentage and 1.41 goals-against average in his five games prior to the break . . . Craig Berube praised his team's work ethic in practices over the last week . . . The Flyers haven't beaten San Jose twice in one season since 1999-2000 . . . Logan Couture (34 points in 43 games) is expected to play his first game since Jan. 5 (hand surgery). The Sharks, however, will be missing defenseman Brad Stuart (upper body) and rookie Tomas Hertl (knee).


On Twitter: @DNFlyers

Blog: ph.ly/FrequentFlyers

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