He may blend in as one of the Tampa Bay Lightning's assistant coaches, but when the name Steve 'Stumpy' Thomas is heard by Blackhawks fans, heads turn. He played more than 1,200 games for five teams during his NHL career, which included seven years in Chicago.
Now, in the Stanley Cup Final for the second time — his first as a coach — Thomas looked back at his time in the Windy City.
"I had the opportunity to play in the Old Stadium, and I had the opportunity to play in the United Center, so we had some good teams," Thomas told CSN Chicago last week in Tampa Bay. "I played with the likes of Denis Savard, Steve Larmer, Doug Wilson, some of the great players that have ever played in the organization. I have fond, fond memories."
Thomas made plenty of friends during his 20-year playing career. Former teammate Adam Creighton was with him for stops with both the Blackhawks and Islanders. The two combined for 74 goals in the 1989-90 season with Chicago.
"He was probably my closest buddy there. But we were such a real close team. With Mike Keenan there we wanted no other way than to have a close bunch of guys, and we were," he said. "We were pretty successful."
[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]
One of the many highlights in his career was being part of the tradition of the National Anthem at the old Chicago Stadium.
"Whether it was in postseason or whether it was during the regular season, you just had a chill run down your spine every single time because it was so loud," he said. You didn't even think a building could be so loud. And that just jacked you up for the first 10 minutes of a game. And I know that a lot of teams that came into our building just wanted to weather the storm for the first five, seven, 10 minutes. They brought that over to the United Center.
"Now it's just over the top in there. It's a great place to play and if you can't get ready to play in that building, you shouldn't be in the game."
Thomas reached the Conference Final with the Blackhawks in back-to-back seasons, but couldn't get past the Oilers and Flames, respectively.
After stops with the Islanders, Devils, and Maple Leafs, Thomas landed back in Chicago as a free agent in 2001.
In March 2003 at the trade deadline, the 39-year old forward was sent to Anaheim. Three months later he found himself playing in his only Stanley Cup Final. The New Jersey Devils outlasted the Ducks in seven games, and Thomas hung up the skates one year later after a season in Detroit.
"We were the No. 8 seed and went and got in the Final and lost in Game 7, so that was a tough pill to swallow," he said. "It was my 19th year in the league nad it was the only time I had a chance to be in the Stanley Cup Final."
Twelve years after reaching his first Final, he's back again with a chance to raise the Stanley Cup. He joined the Lightning in 2010 monitoring player development, and was named an assistant coach in 2012. While the excitement is still there being two wins away from the ultimate goal, he says it's different being here as a coach compared to a player.
"You feel like you've added, you've contributed in a different way, and it's just as satisfying for me to be able to sit here at the end of this series and say we did everything we could to win a Cup," he said, "and hopefully we win one. If we don't, then we'll have no regrets from it."
With the series tied 2-2, it's going to be a battle for either team to win two more games.
As for Thomas' take on the outcome, may the best team win.
John Schippman is the Assistant News Director and Blackhawks Producer at Comcast SportsNet Chicago. You can follow John on Twitter at @JOHNSHIP99.