On Feb. 28, Chris Thorburn was placed on the waivers by the St. Louis Blues.
On March 30, he helped the Blues earn a point against The Vegas Golden Knights by scoring his first goal of the season.
“Don’t worry, Thorburn will save the day.”
A phrase no one would say in the middle of a hockey game where the Blues were down 3-2 with minutes ticking off the clock in the third period of a must-win game.
These days, every win is a must-win for a Blues team that chose January and February to hibernate for winter and find themselves tugging a wildcard spot as the team plays in Arizona tonight. Goals from unlikely sources seem to happen this time of the season.
Thorburn is an interesting case of least likely to score an impactful goal. Here was a guy who was all but shoved out, placed in a press or penalty box most nights, and nearly released from the team a month ago.
Granted, the man had big shoes to fill when he arrived back in September. Calling Thorburn a replacement to departed tough guy Ryan Reaves isn’t entirely accurate due to the latter’s heightened skill set over the past two years, but it was a bruiser picking up where another bruiser left off. Thorburn didn’t have the impact that Reaves did on the ice, wasn’t a good fighter, and was out there to merely disrupt play.
He’s only played in 45 games this year, registering seven points. Thorburn has more penalty minutes this year (55) than career goals (49), but over the past month, he’s looked better on the ice. For a guy who only gets 6-7 minutes of ice time per game, he doesn’t have much room to piss around out there. However, when called upon, Thorburn has been known to set a teammate up on a shot opportunity, take out the opposition, or flick one on net himself.
On Saturday, it worked out and helped the Blues salvage a point. Without that point, the Blues don’t have a hold of the second wildcard spot today. Every single point counts, and facing a rugged team in Vegas, escaping with a point was crucial. It all happened because of Thorburn’s drive to not let disappointment or being invisible for the most of the season diminish his spirit. Also, I like when the enforcer saves the day.
It helps that the guy is a tougher guy off the ice than he is on. 155 fights and 963 penalty minutes in tow, Thorburn does his best work off the ice with his seven-year-old son, Bennett, who battles autism at a young age. In case you missed it while crunching ROW or games in hand, Chris Pinkert wrote a nice piece on Hockey’s Jesus this week for the Blues website.
Pinkert documented in the piece how Bennett can have good days and bad days being autistic, and if you are a parent, it’s not hard to imagine the toll that takes on mom and dad. Thorburn’s wife, Sara, who stays at home with Bennett while Chris gets after that hockey. It’s so tough finding time for yourself while being a parent, but then you throw in the rigors of a condition like autism and it’s insanely tough. I can’t imagine it fully, but I tip my cap sincerely to the Thorburns.
So, you are going through a tumultuous season where you get a few minutes per game and find yourself scratched or possibly released every other week with a team on the playoff bubble, and then you go home to help your tired wife bring piece and calm to your son. Wow.
That is why it’s extremely easy to smile and pump a fist under the sportswriter’s desk when Thorburn breaks into a child-like celebration after his key goal on Friday. Imagine what he was feeling right then, the emotions going through his body. Imagine Sara and Bennett at home losing their shit and screaming. Seeing guys like Thorburn succeed after some adversity on and off the ice is simply cool. It’s why I love doing what I do. Seeing something remarkable and writing about it.
Knowing his story now and seeing how tough of a guy he really is, I will root a little more for the man in the box, Chris Thorburn. As Rocky once said, nothing hits as hard as life. Even a large hockey player trying to take your head off or run you out of the game.
Chris Thorburn knows that very well. Let’s see what else he has in store for Blues fans this season with just five games left.