Four graduates ready for Stanley Cup Finals
Four former North American Hockey League (NAHL) players - the Boston Bruins' Tim Thomas and the Vancouver Canucks' Keith Ballard, Ryan Kesler and Cory Schneider - will represent their respective teams in the Stanley Cup Finals, which begin on Wednesday in Vancouver.
Thomas, a goaltender from Flint, Mich., played for the NAHL's Lakeland (Mich.) Jets before embarking on a four-year college career at the University of Vermont (then ECAC) from 1993-97. He's played the last six seasons with the Bruins.
Thomas was the winner of the 2009 Vezina Trophy as the NHL's best goaltender and played for Team USA in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
Ballard, Kesler and Schneider all played in the NAHL as members of the USA Hockey National Team Development Program. Ballard, a defenseman from Baudette, Minn., played during the 1999-2000 season; Livonia, Mich., native Kesler, a forward, from 2000-02; and Schneider, a goaltender from Marblehead, Mass., during the 2003-04 season.
Five former NAHL players competed in last season's Stanley Cup Finals, which was won by the Chicago Blackhawks.