Tim Thomas inspires hope during his day with the Cup

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Leave it to Tim Thomas to have an inspirational, uplifting moment—even on a day when he’s celebrating with the Stanley Cup. Wouldn’t you know it, that Thomas would have the type of celebration that mirrored so much of his career? There have been plenty of parties surrounding the Bruins and the Stanley Cup this summer, but Thomas’ celebration was set on a Michigan football field at his former high school talking to friends and family about his humble roots.

Somehow, I don’t think Brad Marchand was rapping “Black and Yellow” at Cardinal Stadium.

While speaking at his alma mater, he talked about how playing various sports throughout his development effected him over the course of his career. Some guys are solely playing hockey from the moment they can skate, but Thomas was a three-sport athlete at Davison High School. What is it that they say about the “road less traveled?”

“At times early in my career I wondered if that slowed down my path to hopefully the NHL, but looking back it was definitely the right decision. I was able to enjoy those years and play different sports. If anything it developed my love for hockey because it made me realize I loved hockey more than the other sports. Maybe that’s the reason I’m not burned out now at 37.”

He went onto talk about the area that inspired his work ethic—the type of dedication that helped him navigate through the twists and turns of hockey in the minors and overseas. It’s cliché, but it was his environment growing up that cultivated the perseverance that Thomas would depend on throughout his professional career. From Nicholas J. Cotsonika’s excellent story on Yahoo! Sports:

“I think the Midwest work ethic was highly instilled in me growing up. I was also taught that if you want something bad enough and you’re willing to work towards it that you can get it. It’s kind of the American dream, so to speak, which I think a lot of people, actually, to be honest, have kind of given up on. But I’m proof that you still can. If there’s anything that the younger generation that’s watching here today takes out of it, it’s that it’s up to you.”

After sharing the story, Thomas went deeper after the event with Craig Custance and reflected on the bigger picture:

“It’s not the easiest of times, let’s be honest, in the United States right now. There’s high unemployment in the younger generation. I think they need hope… they need to be inspired.”

There are plenty of ways people can take Tim Thomas’ day with the Cup. Some will read into the story with political motives, as they look at an area that has been hit hard by the tumbling economy. Some will take his message with personal meaning, as they push through tough times in their own individual lives. Still others will listen to Thomas’ words and will find the inspiration to chase their dreams—even when they seem impossible. For those people, Thomas’ cousin Susan Danner shared in Custance’s story that her cousin should be providing motivation for the people who need to be inspired.  “We know how hard he worked,” Danner said.  “Anybody who doesn’t believe in patience, there’s a true story of patience.”

Thank you for the feel good story of the offseason.

Devils, Hischier agree to seven-year, $50.75 million extension

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While the Devils don’t know yet if Taylor Hall will sign an extension to remain in New Jersey or find a new home next summer in free agency, GM Ray Shero has young locked down one of the team’s core pieces.

On Friday, Nico Hischier agreed to a seven-year, $50.75 million extension that carries a $7.25 million cap hit through the 2026-27 NHL season. The deal buys three unrestricted free agent years since the Devils forward has been playing since he was 18, per Cap Friendly.

“Nico is a special person who possess a team-first mentality combined with an inner drive to succeed,” said Shero in a statement. The entire organization is thankful to him and his family for believing in our future. We are excited that he will continue to play a prominent role with us for many years to come.”

According to the Devils, here’s the year-by-year breakdown:

2020-21: $7,000,000 (includes $3 million signing bonus)
2021-22: $7,250,000
2022-23:  $4,500,000
2023-24:  $7,750,000
2024-25:  $7,750,000
2025-26:  $8,000,000
2026-27:  $8,500,000

The extension also features a modified no-trade clause in the final three years.

In 157 NHL games, Hischier, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 draft, has 37 goals and 101 points while averaging over 17 minutes a night. His offense has been just fine with a 20 and 17 goals in his first two seasons, but his two-way game is what’s really boosted his talent.

The 20-year-old center joins the list of NHLers who passed on restricted free agency in 2020 to put pen to paper on a new deal, joining the likes of Alex DeBrincat, Clayton Keller, Thomas Chabot, and Sam Girard.

Mathew Barzal, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Dylan Strome, and Mikhail Sergachev are some of the other potential 2020 RFAs who will be looking for extensions before next season.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Helm fined $5K for slash on Flames’ Lindholm

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Darren Helm and Elias Lindholm had a little battle in the third period of Thursday’s 5-1 Flames win and it has resulted in a $5,000 fine for the Red Wings forward.

It all began during a face-off when Lindholm got taken down by Helm. The Flames forward took exception and skated after Helm as the puck entered the Calgary zone. The tiff continued on with Lindholm throwing an elbow at Helm, who responded by getting up off the ice and slashing Lindholm in the back of the leg.

“Their guy comes with an elbow that should have probably been called right away,” said Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill. “Then Darren reacts to that as most guys would, you get an elbow to the face for no reason you’re going to react. We got to be more disciplined in those situations, but he slashed him. I don’t think the slash was that super-hard, but it sure looked hard the way he went down.”

The fine is the maximum amount allowable under the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Helm was given a major for slashing and a game misconduct, while Lindholm got off with just an interference minor. Lindholm was helped to the dressing room and there’s been no update yet on his condition.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

LA Kings set Guinness World Record for ‘Largest Laser Show’

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The Los Angeles Kings may have dropped their third in a row Thursday night and fell to 2-5-0 on the season, but they set a world record during the first intermission.

The Kings’ game presentation department used 642 lasers as part of the Guinness Book of World Records “Largest Laser Show” at STAPLES Center. So, yeah, they were shutout, but they made history.

For the record, the first-period goals by Casey Mittelstadt and Conor Sheary did not, in fact, count toward the final laser total.

With Thursday being the 20th anniversary of the opening of the arena, which featured a Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band concert back in 1999, the Kings wanted to do something special, so they went and shattered the previous record of 342, per the team.

Now, if only one of those lasers could have destroyed the “cursed” Taylor Swift banner

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Kempny returns to Capitals’ blue line for first time since March

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Washington Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer doing the ceremonial puck drop honors won’t be the only thing Capitals fans can look forward to Friday night. Defenseman Michal Kempny will make his long-awaited return to the ice against the Rangers after tearing his hamstring in March.

Kempny, who was paired with Radko Gudas during Friday’s morning skate, was given a four-to-six month timeline after undergoing surgery right before the end of last season.

“Yeah, I’m playing tonight. It’s been a long time. I’m very excited,” Kempny said. “There was a lot of hard days, especially from the beginning of the rehab, small steps make me happy. I think it’s part of rehab and all the bad is behind me and I’m just focusing now [on] today’s game.”

Kempny knows he won’t be logging heavy minutes just yet and wants to focus on getting back into the normal routine of a regular player. How his ice time is managed will be something his head coach has to worry about.

“We have a range we’d like to have him in and we’ll see how the game goes,” said Todd Reirden. “Obviously he’s fresh, he’s skating really well, he’s in unbelievable condition, so now it’s just to see how it transfers into game action and how his wind is and his conditioning.”

Braden Holtby is back between the pipes are being given a one game “reset,” as Reirden put it. How he fares against the Rangers will either pause the goalie controversy talk with Ilya Samsonov for now or only add more fuel to the fire.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.