CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. — Tim Thomas took a few hunting trips during his sabbatical from hockey, including one journey to Florida where he ended up snagging an alligator.
He’s back in Florida, and gators aren’t exactly on his mind this time.
Declaring himself ‘‘reborn’’ after more than a year off, Thomas was back on NHL ice Tuesday, working out with the Panthers for the first time since agreeing to a tryout deal with the club. The former Bruins goaltender with two Vezina Trophies and a Stanley Cup on his résumé will accompany the Panthers starting Wednesday for their three-game, four-day road trip to Dallas, San Antonio, and Tampa.
‘‘After 14 years of pro hockey, I got tired and I needed a break,’’ Thomas said. ‘‘Now I’m energized and I’m looking forward to it.’’
Thomas, 39, came to Florida to compete for a starting job and will only need to beat Jacob Markstrom to win that role. Markstrom has been the Panthers’ goalie of the future for some time and arrived in this camp expecting to finally be the No. 1 guy — especially with veteran Scott Clemmensen recovering from knee surgery that may keep him off the ice until next month.
Markstrom didn’t seem bothered in any way by Thomas’s arrival.
‘‘It’s the best league in the world,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s not supposed to be easy.’’
Thomas decided to take last season off to focus on family, faith and friends, as he put it, and said Tuesday that he largely steered his mind away from hockey. Thomas didn’t even watch games during the season — until the playoffs, when the lure of watching teams compete for the Stanley Cup was something he could not ignore.
‘‘When it came playoff time I started to watch some hockey and started to get the competitive juices flowing and I saw my former team, the Boston Bruins, have the success they had,’’ Thomas said. ‘‘I was so proud of those guys and what they did.’’
The Bruins went to the Stanley Cup Final, losing in six games to Chicago.
Panthers coach Kevin Dineen was impressed with what he saw from the goalie in his first practice.
‘‘As advertised,’’ Dineen said. ‘‘He came in and gave that high-compete level. He works on every shot and everything that I heard about him we saw in practice today, so it was a good day.’’