Thursday, September 18, 2014

Timonen resolute while blood-clot issue unresolved, but career likely through

Voorhees, NJ --  A pall will be cast over the unofficial start to the 2014-15 season, when training camp opens up tomorrow morning at the SkateZone.

Kimmo Timonen -- the bedrock of the Flyers' constantly shifting defense -- will be out  for a period of months as he continues to recover from a diagnosis of multiple blood clots.

In  a  Thursday afternoon press conference,  Flyers GM Ron Hextall revealed that the condition of his veteran blueliner is such that an assessment of Timonen's readiness  to return to the ice won't occur until the turn of the new calendar year.

"Kimmo  will  not play  for a period  of time here,  meaning months. First and foremost  we're concerned  about  him  and his  family,"  Hextall stated.  "We really  don't have  any definitive answers. The one definitive we have is that Kimmo will not play ... for many months."

Timonen  had been  diagnosed with blood clots  in his lower right leg and both lungs  in  his native  Finland back in  early August, a  setback which put his career in jeopardy.

The  39-year-old veteran  signed a one-year contract extension in June to stay with  the Flyers for  an eighth season. Now, it appears likely that won't come to pass, although Timonen is not completely given over to the possibility that he's finished.

"My  desire is  ... obviously I want to  play. But the chance of me playing is really  slim. That's  a fact,"  Timonen  stated. "I'm  ready to  wait, and  if there's  a  chance and a safe  way for me  to step on  the ice, then we have a discussion. But we don't know yet."

Timonen  has 232  assists and 270 points  with the Flyers -- ranking him third all-time among Philadelphia defensemen in both stats. He has 117 goals and 454 assists  for  571 points in  1,092 career games  with the Flyers and Nashville Predators.

In  77  games last  season, Timonen  posted six  goals with  29 assists for 35 points. Heading into this season, only Brayden Coburn can boast a longer tenure of service with the Orange and Black, having arrived via Atlanta during the disastrous 2006-07 season. His strength and constancy has not gone unnoticed by those whom he's served.

"This guy wants to play hockey so bad. It’s a testament to truly how much heart he’s got as an athlete. I admire him an awful lot," added Hextall, who made his career on heart and desire as much as skill. "I admire him for his passion, his will to play hockey and the professional that he is. It will be a tough time for our hockey team at first. What we'll miss the most is his professionalism."

Like Chris Pronger before him, Timonen sat next to Hextall, in front of the cameras and projected a calm confidence despite the odds. However, it was clear during the 15-minute salvo that the writing was all over the wall behind him. This is it. Yet, the 2014 Bronze medalist has earned the stripes to call his shot on the day it's clear to him that it's over.

Still, hope is a tricky thing when shaded with medical uncertainty. An athlete's best investment is how he projects both confidence and health to fuel his performance. The most crushing aspect of what Timonen said, was that he has a clotting disorder within his own family, an outcome which doesn't usually permit a positive outlook for series athletic endeavors.

Yes, half a season is better than none, but when you're weighing the benefits of playing against the benefits of life, the answer is usually quite clear.
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