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Honoring Beezer

Newest Panther netminder Tim Thomas chose the number of a guy he grew up watching, former Panther John Vanbiesbrouck.

Friday, 10.4.2013 / 3:30 PM ET / News
By Glenn Odebralski  - FloridaPanthers.com
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Honoring Beezer
Newest Panther netminder Tim Thomas chose the number of a guy he grew up watching, former Panther John Vanbiesbrouck.
Tim Thomas chose No. 34 in honor of former Panther John Vanbiesbrouck (Getty Images)

20 years after the introduction of the franchise, a No. 34 is once again gracing the Panthers crease.

Signed to a one-year contract last Thursday after going through camp on a PTO, veteran net minder Tim Thomas selected No. 34 as the number he'll don and it's all in honor of the Panthers first netminder, John Vanbiesbrouck.

"Growing up, John Vanbiesbrouck was one of the guys that I looked up to," said Thomas on the goaltender who was selected with the Panthers first pick in the 1993 Expansion Draft. "Especially being a fellow American and he's from Michigan."

The two Panthers No. 34's have crossed paths before, most recently going on a celebrity pheasant hunt in South Dakota as part of a USA Hockey fundraiser during the NHL Lockout last year.

The connections started much, much earlier however. Vanbiesbrouck was born in Detroit, MI while Thomas was born about an hour northwest in Flint, MI. It was at a young age, that the current Panthers netminder first came across Vanbiesbrouck who was in his early NHL career with the New York Rangers.

"When I was 10 years old, I lived down the street from his parents in Detroit," said Thomas. "I saw him out running and training a couple of times in the summer. So obviously I followed his career."

Thomas said that the first time he met Vanbiesbrouck was actually when the first No. 34 was with the Panthers and Thomas was in college. ‘Beezer’ was with Florida from 1993-98 while Thomas attended the University of Vermont from 1993-97.

For the now 39-year old, Thomas sees some similarities in their style of play. Both players have had their detractors yet chiseled out successful NHL careers.

"He was a smaller guy. I'm not necessarily as small as him but I've had to battle through people's opinions of my style and he had his own unique style that I watched," said Thomas. "I see similarities in that quarter."

And while he can't recall any specific games that stand out of the Beezer, he does remember the netminder and right before puck drop.

"I even remember how he was during national anthems," said Thomas. "He had the feet moving all the time. I'm not like that. I stand still but still it's the little things like that."

He, like most other hockey enthusiasts, does remember that Panthers magical year of 1995-96.

"Definitely watched him, specially that year that they made the run and I watched it a lot," said Thomas.

That year, that's what Thomas is looking to help the Panthers recapture. It's something that he wouldn't want any more, especially during the special 20th Anniversary season.

"When he was here, the Panthers had the best season that they've had in the history of the organization," said Thomas. "I'm going to try and pick up where he left off."

And that started off on the right track as Thomas stopped 25 of 27 shots to lead the Panthers to an opening night win over the Stars.

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EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 x - NYR 76 48 21 7 231 179 103
2 x - MTL 77 47 22 8 203 174 102
3 x - TBL 78 47 24 7 250 204 101
4 PIT 76 42 23 11 210 190 95
5 NYI 77 45 27 5 235 215 95
6 WSH 77 42 25 10 227 190 94
7 DET 76 40 23 13 221 208 93
8 BOS 77 39 25 13 204 198 91
9 OTT 76 38 26 12 220 204 88
10 FLA 77 35 27 15 192 210 85
11 CBJ 76 37 35 4 210 234 78
12 PHI 76 30 29 17 198 219 77
13 NJD 77 31 33 13 170 197 75
14 CAR 76 28 37 11 176 208 67
15 TOR 77 29 42 6 201 245 64
16 BUF 76 21 47 8 148 255 50

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Huberdeau 74 13 36 9 49
N. Bjugstad 72 24 19 -7 43
J. Jokinen 76 8 33 -4 41
B. Boyes 74 13 23 10 36
A. Ekblad 76 11 24 10 35
J. Hayes 67 18 14 -6 32
A. Barkov 66 14 17 -3 31
B. Campbell 77 3 23 2 26
B. Pirri 44 21 2 6 23
D. Bolland 48 5 16 1 21
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
R. Luongo 26 18 12 .921 2.35
A. Montoya 5 7 2 .888 3.08
 
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