All Kimmo Timonen needed was a chance.
The Nashville Predators gave it to him.
“A big thank you to the Nashville Predators organization — especially [general manager] David Poile and [coach] Barry Trotz,” the veteran defenseman said Monday, according to the Philadelphia Flyers’ website. “They gave me a chance and said ‘We believe you can play in this league.’
“That was the only chance I needed because I knew I could play in this league, but I just needed that chance.”
He got it in the franchise’s first season, when he was an early recall from Milwaukee and ultimately appeared in 50 games.
Now a member of the Philadelphia Flyers, he played in his 1,000th NHL game Monday in Tampa. The majority of those contests — 573, to be exact — were with Nashville. He’s still the franchise’s all-time leader in games played by a defenseman and third all-time behind only David Legwand and Martin Erat.
He is the 282nd player in league history to reach the milestone but the first to do it on his birthday. He turned 38 on Monday.
Nashville traded Timonen to the Flyers along with Scott Hartnell on June 18, 2007, for a first-round pick that ultimately was used on Jonathon Blum. He has been with that team ever since and currently serves as an alternate captain.
The knock on him before he came to the Predators as part of an expansion draft deal was that he was too small to play in the NHL. He’s currently listed at 5-foot-10, 194 pounds.
Between 2000-01 and 2006-07, he played in at least 72 games every season for Nashville. Two years in a row, 2000-01 and 2001-02, he appeared in all 82.
“I don’t want to brag about it, but I’m sure I had to break down a lot of walls to play in this league and at the same time I’m sure I opened up a lot of spots for smaller defensemen to play in this league along the way,” Timonen said. “If you go back to that time, defensemen were all over six feet tall, played hard physically and always cross-checked people. I’m not that way. That’s why I said I had to break down a lot of walls.”
Timonen had 79 goals and 222 assists for the Predators, which makes him one of only three players in franchise history with at least 300 points and one of only four with at least 200 career assists.
Monday, he led his team with 22:04 of ice time in Philadelphia’s 4-2 loss to Tampa.
“It’s a great honor to play 1,000 games,” Timonen said. “It means a lot to me. There are so many people to thank for it too. You have to thank your parents, your brothers and your family first. Without them, I wouldn’t be here. Those are the ones I have to say thank you to first. Also my wife and kids. There’s a lot of personal stuff that goes on behind the scenes that most people don’t realize.
“… And then obviously here [in Philadelphia]. It’s been a great six years here. This is the best organization in the league. They treat players like they are kings here. It’s great to be here.”
First, though, he needed Nashville to give him the opportunity.