Thomson deserves to be a Knight

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:45 AM ET

Even though he was introduced Sunday as being from London, not many people knew who he was.

Probably because the road he took to the John Labatt Centre wound its way through Sarnia, London, St. Marys and Sault Ste. Marie, with the trip taking more than three years.

Kelly Thomson is a fireplug of a winger who has made a most improbable appearance on the London Knights roster.

"That was kind of the joke going around the room before the game," says Thomson.

"They were kidding me that everyone would be checking the program, trying to figure out who the hell I am."

Thomson is a 19-year-old free agent born in Calgary but raised in London.

He was originally drafted in the 11th round, 206th overall, by the Sarnia Sting in 2001.

Since then he has played with the London Nationals, St. Marys Lincolns and the Tier II Sault Ste. Marie Thunderbirds.

The skinny on him is that he has talent and he won't back down from anyone.

But the reality of his career was even simpler. It was going nowhere until he made significant changes in his life.

"I'm very proud of this guy," says Dave Moore, a personal trainer who works with many hockey players including Knights' Brandon Prust.

"He lost 32 pounds (since June).

"He has a certain type of build. He looks at a potato chip and gains five pounds. He was real disciplined about his diet and he worked hard. When you work harder, you get hungry so you have to be disciplined in both ways."

Thomson says he just loves playing the game and he realized to have any chance of moving to a higher level he would have to get in shape.

"When I got my release, I wanted to play in London. They said I was more than welcome but I weighed 235 pounds. (Knights general manager) Mark Hunter said, 'Don't bother showing up if you don't show up in shape.' "

Thomson showed up and got everyone's attention early in camp. He got in everyone's face, including Josh Beaulieu's and Shawn Futers. Whispers says he was prepared to mix it up with Prust at camp but was told that was a no-no.

"So, I knew Josh was tough, too, and I just wanted to make an impression," says Thomson. "I wanted to take on anyone who potentially could take my role on the team."

When camp began, Thomson was about as long a shot to make the team as anyone on the roster.

"I really had my work cut out for me," he says. "A lot of people told me that I had no business on this team at the weight I was. So to me, it's a great accomplishment to be signed as a free agent on the No. 1-ranked team.

"Was I surprised to be on roster? I wouldn't say surprised. I worked for it.

"I think that's the only reason why I'm here."

Thomson is the kind of guy fans take to. On Sunday he had a full house of friends and relatives, including his two younger brothers, watching him play. He got to start on a line with David Bolland and Robbie Schremp.

"When I was standing out there and listening to everyone getting introduced, I was thinking of the road that it took me to get where I am.

"I couldn't believe I was actually there.

"I was nervous I was going to fall in the castle going out. Then (Knights assistant coach Jacques Beaulieu) came and told me that I was starting the game on left wing with Bolland and Schremp. I thought, 'Oh my God.' I was hoping I could hide on the bench for five minutes and soak it all up before I actually had to play."

Who knows what the rest of the season holds for Thomson? But for now, he's just happy to be here.

"I just go from day to day, working as hard as I can to get into the lineup.

"I played Sunday and I have all week to prove that I deserve to play on Friday."


Videos

Photos