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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
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 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Jagr 79 27 39 23 66
J. Jokinen 81 18 42 25 60
A. Barkov 66 28 31 18 59
J. Huberdeau 76 20 39 17 59
V. Trocheck 76 25 28 15 53
R. Smith 82 25 25 19 50
A. Ekblad 78 15 21 18 36
N. Bjugstad 67 15 19 -8 34
B. Campbell 82 6 25 31 31
B. Pirri 52 11 13 -4 24
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
R. Luongo 35 19 6 .922 2.35
A. Montoya 12 7 3 .919 2.18

 
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