No. 9: He’s always been rejected throughout this hockey career.

Before he emerged as the Boston Bruins’ go-to puck-stopper a couple seasons ago, Tim Thomas had to play in numerous leagues on a number of continents in various countries to keep his professional career going.

Although he’d proved many critics wrong ever since his return to the NHL in 2006, Thomas still couldn’t avoid the snubs. Off to a great start to the 2007-08 season, Thomas was leading the NHL in save percentage and sat ninth in goals-against average when the Eastern Conference All-Star reserves (Thomas had had no chance of starting because he was left off the ballot) were announced. But he wasn’t among those selected and expected to not be heading to the 2008 NHL All-Star Game in Atlanta.

Then just a week and a half later, he was added as a last-minute injury replacement. Thomas proudly ignored the previous insults and went to the game to represent the Bruins at the midseason classic. Thomas’ All-Star selection was important enough to earn its spot among the Bruins’ top 10 moments of calendar year 2008.

Thomas was actually one of three Bruins selected for the East squad, as defenseman Zdeno Chara was voted to start and fellow first-time All-Star Marc Savard was selected as a reserve center. But it was Thomas’ selection that really resonated with people around the league because of his back story and all he’d persevered through.

When it was all said and done, Thomas returned to Boston satisfied that he’d gotten the most he could out of the experience.

“The camaraderie, getting to know some of the players that I’ve played against for a couple of years now but never got to actually meet,” said Thomas about the best thing he took from the All-Star Game. “Even though I am a hockey player, I’m still impressed by how nice hockey players are. These are stars, even in my mind. (Ottawa’s Daniel) Alfredsson‘s been a star in the NHL for years and years and some guys like that, you can’t believe that you’re playing in the same game with them.”

Thomas earned the win in net for the East and those that didn’t know his name were suddenly schooled on just what a proficient goaltender he is. And the All-Star Game served as a launching point for a great second half of the season.