It’s a rare thing to see a young undrafted player with only 106 (130 counting playoffs) NHL games under his belt over the course of two seasons become a legend. In fact those looking at his stat line or his brief NHL stint would hardly call a kid like Patrick Thoresen a legend. After all he only accounted for 3 goals. That’s not exactly important in the eyes of millions of fans watching some players score 40 a season without breaking a sweat. Still there are two areas of the world that believe in the Legend of Thor. One is the great city of Philadelphia and as of February 8th, 2009 the other is the entire country of Norway, the country Thoresen calls home.
Patrick became a legend in Philadelphia not only for having the easiest name to create a nickname for in all hockey history, but also for being one of the most exciting players on the ice whenever he found himself out for a shift. He was a true puck shark in every sense of the word; always giving every movement of his stick, every step of his skating up and down the ice everything he possibly had. This kid was something the hockey world needed; pure effort. He didn’t score often, but when he was on the ice everyone knew something was going to happen; momentum was going to shift for the Flyers, Thoresen would steal the puck, or even force a goalie to make a desperate save. He wasn’t the most talented kid to ever suit up in the NHL, but he was a treat to watch on the ice though his shifts were limited and short.
By the time the playoffs came around in the spring of 2008 Thor was well on his way to becoming an important Flyers energy player. He had played 21 games racking up 5 assists with the orange and black after Philadelphia had acquired him of waivers from the Edmonton Oilers, and was about to become the first Norwegian born player to take part in the NHL postseason. Now though was Thoresen’s real test. He had never been to the Stanley Cup Playoffs before, let alone in a city like Philadelphia where the atmosphere is intense and the pressure to win is enormous. The first test for the Flyers was the hot Washington Capitals who had surprised the entire NHL late in the season to capture the third seed by winning the Southeast Division. His level of play continued in the first couple of games. He came so close so many times to scoring his first goal as a Flyer, but it wasn’t to be. The entire city was watching and hoping for Thoresen to finally put one in the net. Whether he realized it or not he had an entire city cheering for him. What happened next will forever be played on sports blooper reels from now until the end of time.
Mike Green of the Capitals took the initial shot that hit Thor where he could have been crippled and then eventually got the goal to send the game to overtime. It would be the Flyers who would win in double overtime on a goal by Mike Knuble. The series itself was one of the best series of hockey ever played. Some of course argue that the refs made the right decision allowing the game to continue with Thoresen writhing in pain on the ice while others will claim it was another instance where the league could have made things a little safer for the players. Either way the result was an exciting game and an exciting series of playoff hockey. Though it was originally feared that Thor would lose a testicle due to the shot he ended up making it through in tact. He would return in the next series against the Montreal Canadiens and play a total of 14 postseason games before the crushing loss to the Penguins in game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
In the offseason Thoresen became a restricted free agent whose rights belonged solely to the Flyers. Paul Holmgren had reportedly offered him a two-way deal to return to the organization, but it was declined. Patrick wanted a one-way deal to secure his finances for himself and his family, but Holmgren had a team to take care of first. Thor went on his way back to Europe where he signed a one year deal HC Lugano of the Swiss-A League.
So far in the 2008-2009 season with his new Swiss club he has absolutely dominated. He has racked up 21 goals and 37 assists for 58 points in only 43 games. While the league isn’t exactly the highest level of competition Thoresen has shown, just as he did in the NHL, that he can play both winger and center. It was then that the legend of Thor grew even more. He was called into service by his home country, Norway, to carry their team into the Olympics. He answered by scoring a hat-trick in a decision game against Denmark where Norway won 5-3 earning the team a spot in the 2010 Winter Games to be held in Vancouver. This will be the first time that Norway has brought a hockey team to the Winter Olympics since hosting the games in 1994 which took place in Lillehammer.
The groups are now finalized and will look like this:
Group A: Canada, United States, Switzerland, Norway
Group B: Russia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Latvia
Group C: Sweden, Finland, Belarus, Germany
When Patrick Thoresen goes to Vancouver he will most likely play against some of the players from his team in Philadelphia last season. Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, and Simon Gagne, who has won gold with Canada before, are all making strong cases for themselves to make the Canadian team traveling to Vancouver. There are also players he was buried behind on the depth chart that will not be taking in the incredible experience of Olympic hockey. On the Norwegian team Thoresen is a star. He will be going to Vancouver along with the great names of Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin. His team is not likely to win a medal, but just making it there is a huge achievement.
So what’s next for Thor? The Philadelphia Flyers still retain his rights as a restricted free agent. Should he ‘wow’ some people at the Olympic games or continue to dominate the Swiss League he could find himself in the NHL once again. I know of at least one fan base that would love to bring a legend back to their city.