On his 38th birthday, Timonen set to play 1,000th game

On his 38th birthday, Timonen set to play 1,000th game

March 18, 2013, 9:00 am
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VOORHEES, N.J. – Tonight in Tampa, defenseman Kimmo Timonen will become the 282nd NHL player to play in 1,000 games.

But on Sunday afternoon, after the Flyers held a rather lengthy, high-intensity practice at Skate Zone, Timonen declined to discuss the milestone.

He didn’t want to jinx it, he said.

“That’s Kimmo,” said longtime defensive partner Braydon Coburn. “He shoots from the hip. He’s a really honest guy. It’s a great accomplishment. He’s been a great player in this league ever since he got here. He’s not the fastest guy. He’s not the biggest guy. He’s a tough little Finn. He’s been a smart player to be in the league that long.”

Timonen has played 426 games as a Flyer. Previously, he played 573 games with the Nashville Predators, with whom his career began in 1998.

He’s been through a lot since then -- from reaching the Stanley Cup Finals to playing on four All-Star teams to compiling an Iron Man streak of 248 consecutive games -- but he hasn’t changed much at all, according to his teammates.

“Always the same guy,” said Scott Hartnell, who came to the Flyers from Nashville along with Timonen in 2007. “He always likes to laugh, but when push comes to shove, he’s a serious guy and he wants to win. We were just talking about it earlier, everything that comes out of his mouth is almost a joke and funny, but if he’s serious, you know that he’s talking serious, too. He’s a great guy to have around the rink and a great friend for 12, 13 years for me.”

Coach Peter Laviolette, who called Timonen’s 1,000-game achievement “amazing,” knew of the defenseman before he began coaching him in 2009. But, he said, it was only after Laviolette joined the Flyers that he began to truly appreciate the stocky, rather short (he’s listed as 5-foot-10) defenseman.

“His dependability, his reliability on the ice,” Laviolette said. “He was in the Western Conference [before coming to Flyers] and you don’t get a chance to see a player quite as much or play against them quite as much. When you actually get to work together with a player on a day-to-day basis and see what kind of person they are in the locker room off the ice, what kind of character they have, and what kind of play they bring to the ice. He’s had an unbelievable career.”

Coincidentally, Timonen has one other reason to celebrate March 18: It’s his 38th birthday.

And tonight, he will become just the sixth player from Finland to join the 1,000-game club, joining a short list that includes Teppo Numminen, Teemu Selanne, Jari Kurri, Olli Jokinen and Saku Koivu.

“It’s pretty huge, I think,” Hartnell said, “for his family, for his country, things like that. It’s pretty cool that I played 850 some games with him. To be a part of that is pretty cool, too.”

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