PEABODY — Tim Thomas has dreamed of playing in the Olympics since he was 5.
The Boston Bruins goaltender and father of three spoke yesterday at his children's school, Covenant Christian Academy, sharing his dreams of playing for gold, his ice time with his father and his late entry into the National Hockey League.
Thomas will be one of three goalies on the American ice hockey team at the Vancouver Winter Olympics, which kick off Feb. 12. Thomas visited each of his children's classrooms before speaking at a schoolwide assembly.
The Olympic theme song blared over the speakers when Thomas entered the school gym yesterday. A banner signed by students was hung near the front of the room. Red, white and blue balloons and small American flags decorated the space.
Led by Headmaster Tom Stoner, kids at the 206-student, pre-K-12 private school in West Peabody chanted "U-S-A" to the 35-year-old hockey player. The headmaster, who had taken student questions before, asked Thomas about his career and impending participation in the Olympics.
Thomas, who wore a long-sleeved T-shirt, jeans and cap, said he was inspired to play hockey after watching the 1980 Olympics. He was 5 and the Russians were supposed to be unbeatable, the Bruin said.
The Americans' come-from-behind victory stuck with him.
"It's my oldest dream," Thomas said. "I've been dreaming about what's going to come for 30 years."
The 5-foot-11 goalie said he has plenty of challenges as a professional hockey player. Thomas was drafted in the ninth round in 1994 but didn't get his chance to play in the NHL until five years ago.
At 29, Thomas had come to grips with the idea that he might not play in the big leagues.
"I made peace, but it never meant I gave up," he said.