It was a knee injury that ended Michael Thelven’s NHL career, but it was a clambake during his days as a Bruins defenseman that led to his fortune.
“I look back now,” said Thelven, 57, speaking by cellphone from his waterfront manse in Jupiter, Fla., “and I guess I had some real guts. Not now. Something happens when you turn 50 . . . you worry more, about everything. At least I do. But back then, in the ’90s . . . heck, I just went for it.”
Thelven and wife Aline drew a deep sigh of relief just three weeks ago when he finally landed his permanent US green card. Though not an American citizen, Thelven and his family, some 30-plus years after he arrived in Boston as a rookie defenseman, are free to stay as long as they want in a country they hold dear.
“And it’s great,” said Thelven, who drew letters of support from Mike Milbury, Terry O’Reilly, Gord Kluzak, and other ex-Bruins when petitioning for permanent resident status. “I mean, it’s not like our alternative meant being sent off to Honduras or Guatemala. We could have gone to Sweden or Switzerland and lived there, but our first choice was to be in America.”
Thelven further explained that his daughter Alexandra, age 7, has special needs and has made great strides with Jupiter-area therapists and schools. Her support network might be replicated elsewhere, he said, but he and Aline believed her chance of thriving was best if they could keep her plugged into her health, social, and academic community.
Meanwhile, Thelven is semi-retired, his work hours spent managing a series of investments in the wake of selling his med tech-based company in 2011. Which brings us to the clambake.
During his days with the Bruins (1985-90), Thelven each September made the team vigil to David Warren’s estate at Beverly Farms. A longtime fan and Black and Gold booster, Warren annually invited the entire team to his oceanside estate, abutting Endicott College, for a clambake.
The Warrens, Thelven recalled, held a fascination for Sweden, in part because they employed Swedish nannies. Conversation about Swedish culture and travel to Scandinavia helped spark a friendship, which led to a phone call from Warren when Thelven, only 29 at the time, was forced to retire with a knee injury at the end of the 1989-90 season.
“He asked what I was going to do,” recalled Thelven. “And I told him I would love to start up an import-export business of some sort. Because I love America and I have very good contacts back in Sweden and my name opens up a lot of doors in Scandinavia . . . blah, blah, blah.”
Prior to arriving in Boston, Thelven played four seasons in the Swedish Elite League in Stockholm (Djurgardens) and also played for the Three Crowns national team, winning an Olympic bronze medal in the 1984 Games in Sarajevo. That medal, by the way, was one of the credentials that helped Thelven land his EB1A visa — commonly referred to as the “Einstein visa,” a separate classification for foreigners with extraordinary ability.
Warren, Thelven fondly recalls, connected him with a start-up company that specialized in temperature monitoring systems, typically related to the pharmaceutical industry. Thelven soon joined the company as a distributor, and some 10 years later struck out on his own, creating a business that focused on the programming and software end of the temperature monitoring.
“I got customers at the end that included Astrazeneca, Novartus, GlaxoSmithKline . . . in all, five of the largest customers in the world using our products,” he recalled. “There might have been 50,000 shipments a year to each company, monitoring the temperatures in their vaccine departments — ensuring the vaccine was fully potent. If they freeze, or got too hot, then they might not be fully potent and people would die.”
Thelven’s formal academic education ended in his high school days in Sweden, when he was a young boy eager to launch his pro hockey career, and one day play in the NHL. He likes to kid now that, before beginning his business career, a world full of negotiations and paperwork, he had not so much as “made out a postcard.”
“We got lucky,” noted Thelven. “We had the right timing. It was mid ’90s or late ’90s that it became law in the US — the FDA forced all distributors of pharmaceuticals to be temperature monitored. That was Bingo for us. I went from being a distributor to owning 100 percent of basically a software company.”
Thelven contracted a Dallas-based company to produce the hardware for the temperature monitoring, provided the hardware to his customers for free, then charged them for software/data going forward.
“A pretty good business model,” said the old defenseman. “Because every time they used it, it was reoccurring revenue. It was just, ‘tick, tick, tick, tick’ all around the world. Just a beautiful business setup.”
In 2011, still the company’s sole owner, Thelven cashed out, sold the company for a bundle, and today is a man of leisure.
‘The house we’re in is 10,000 square feet . . . just ridiculous, we’ll have to downsize,” he said. “I mean, it’s so big, a house like this, you really need a guy . . . and right now, I’m the guy.”
NEXT MAN UP
Who will succeed Quinn at BU?
With David Quinn gone to coach the Rangers, Boston University is back in the hunt for a bench boss, one that had Quinn winning out over fellow alums Mike Sullivan (now with two Cup titles in Pittsburgh) and John Hynes (helping to revive the Devils) when it came time to replace Jack Parker.
An attempt last week by your faithful puck chronicler to have AD Drew Marrochello address the situation only brought this back from Brian Kelley, BU’s director of sports information: “[Marrochello] won’t be commenting on any part of the search until the new coach is hired. The process is well underway and we hope to have someone in place shortly.”
Word around BU as of Friday night had the field winnowed to two candidates, including BU alum and ex-Bruins winger Shawn McEachern, head coach of the Rivers School in recent years, and Rick Bennett, the current Union College coach who led the Dutchmen to the NCAA championship in 2014.
Hiring McEachern, who grew up in Waltham, would maintain the Terrier lineage, and would be in keeping with the other Beanpot schools that all have alums behind their benches: Jerry York (Boston College), Ted Donato (Harvard) and Jim Madigan (Northeastern).
McEachern, 49, also the assistant AD at the Rivers School, was an assistant college coach for five years (2004-10) at Salem, Northeastern and UMass Lowell before joining the Rivers staff. Including playoffs, he played in over 1,000 NHL games.
The Springfield-born Bennett, 50, played four years at Providence (1990) and played 15 games as a New York Ranger winger in the early ’90s. He was an assistant coach for five years at Providence before moving to Union for another six seasons before taking over the Union bench for the 2011-12 season.
Bruins assistant Jay Pandolfo (BU ’96) interviewed for the gig. Fellow Terrier and Bruins assistant Joe Sacco, who departed campus in 1990 after three seasons, was another logical choice for consideration.
Soon into his five-year stay at BU, Quinn implemented a “Coach’s Cabinet,” which brought some 200-plus well-heeled alums into his inner circle for regular up-close-and-personal looks at the program’s inner workings during the season.
One can only imagine the affable Quinn working his Cabinet appointees, with his trademark charm and humor, along with side orders of video, X’s, O’s, and busting of chops.
The Cabinet ostensibly replaced the longtime and more folksy “Friends of BU Hockey,” and created a healthy money stream for the program. With the Cabinet established, and all dollars critical in today’s world of college athletics, Marrochello will have to be mindful of finding the right fit, not only identifying a guy who can recruit and develop top Division 1 players, but also schmooze the Cabinet members.
Holtby’s save stirs memories
Not to steal his thunder, but Braden Holtby’s spectacular save off Alex Tuch in Game 2 of the Cup Final on Wednesday was something we once saw with some regularity. Back when goaltending was more artistry, athleticism, and guile, with a healthy side order of insanity.
Holtby, shading toward the post to his left, alertly leaped to his right, went extended paddle-down with his right arm, and snuffed out what should have been Tuch’s easy putaway. No, sir. Again, g-r-e-a-t save, particularly given time, score, and circumstance. Raise your hand high if you recall Tim Thomas sculpting a few of those beauts each season, particularly during the 2011 Cup run.
Into the 1980s, before the butterfly (pads down, legs flared) style became the standard method, goalies built their craft on the up-and-out style. They moved forward from the net, typically to take away, or at least diminish, the shooting angle as attackers prepared to unload shots. There was a lot of scurrying back to get in position, diving for loose pucks, using glove hand, blocker, and stick to erase doorstep chances.
The butterfly style and the advances in goalie equipment changed all that. Up-and-out is dead and gone.
Goalies now rarely venture more than a foot or two forward of the goal line, choosing to seal off that 24-square-foot black hole simply with their size (equipment enhanced) or by dropping into the butterfly — sometimes choosing the latter profile even before pucks are dropped in either of the two nearest faceoff circles (an illegal defense if ever there was one).
The brief glimpse of the heroic Holtby, preserving a 3-2 win, was an express ticket back to the time when goalies succeeded based on their skill to save pucks rather than block pucks. Which is not to diminish the work of today’s stout-hearted keepers. But it is yet another reminder that style and equipment have robbed the game of some of its most thrilling, Keystone Kop moments.
Holtby’s save will be talked about for years. The Lords of the Boards might want to think that through a little bit. A few tweaks in goalie equipment and what they can and cannot do to defend their space would expand the game’s treasure of memories.
Mario’s magnificent night
Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi in recent days twice nearly hit for the cycle, falling short by a double in each game.
There really isn’t a hockey equivalent to rolling up a single, double, triple, and homer, but Robert Waterman, veteran numerologist at the Elias Sports Bureau, offered up Mario Lemieux’s performance of Dec. 31, 1988, as perhaps the granddaddy of single-game offensive variety.
Consider Mario Magnifique’s output in the 8-6 win over the Devils, in which his name appeared on every Penguins goal (5-3—8): two goals at even strength, two goals while shorthanded (one via penalty shot), and one goal on the power play. And one of the even-strength goals came on an empty-netter with one second to go. Oh, and the three assists.
In total then, Lemieux touched ’em all: even strength, power play, shorthanded, penalty shot, and empty-netter.
And in keeping with old-time hockey, No. 66 also picked up a coincidental roughing minor in a skirmish with Devils forward Aaron Broten. The 6-foot-4-inch Lemieux had the edge over the 5-10 Broten.
Long’s short circuits on Twitter
Ex-Patriots defensive end Chris Long chimed in Monday night during Game 1 of the Cup Final with a tongue-in-cheek tweet that garnered way more attention than it deserved. Imagine that, the crazy train running down the Twitter track.
“I see ppl saying, ‘turn on the Stanley Cup.’ Guys take too many breaks in hockey. Shift changes constantly. For instance [Sunday] night, LeBron played the entire game [against the Celtics]. I’d rather watch the grinders.”
His use of “grinders” alone should have been enough for readers to realize that @JOEL9ONE was only having some fun. No one has more grinders per square inch than the Original 31.
But The Daily Caller grabbed hold of Long’s tweet, turned it upside down, and the conservative website had readers bringing Howie Long’s boy all kinds of heat for the tweet.
The Daily Caller tweet:
“NFL Star Has an Absurdly Stupid Tweet About Hockey. He Couldn’t Be More Wrong.”
It teased a story by reporter David Hookstead, who fired one off the post, accusing Long of authoring “one of the dumbest tweets you’ll ever see about hockey.”
The St. Louis Blues eventually came to the rescue of their homeboy. Long played his first eight NFL seasons in St. Louis. “Don’t worry,” they tweeted, “we know you love hockey.”
By no means a shocker to see the Capitals rub out the Lightning to claim the Eastern Conference title. However, it was a shock to see Steven Stamkos not only held off the scoresheet, but to be virtually invisible in the clinching game. In his five playoff seasons with Tampa, the 28-year-old Stamkos has played in a half-dozen Games 7 and has gone 0-0—0 . . . The 6-4 Tom Wilson teed off on the 5-9 Jonathan Marchessault in Game 1 of the Cup Final, addling the skilled Vegas center with an open-ice hit. Clean hit, technically, but it was from the blindside and it was late, after Marchessault had surrendered puck possession. The NHL Department of Player Safety let it slide — no supplemental discipline — but hard to reckon that decision with the three-game suspension David Backes was tagged with for his swipe along the boards at Detroit’s Frans Nielsen at the start of March. Meanwhile, Wilson is free to prey another day . . . No word on the couple of adds David Quinn is expected to make on his Rangers staff. GM Jeff Gorton said he first wanted Quinn to sit down with assistant Lindy Ruff, still under contract from the Alain Vigneault regime, to see if Quinn felt there was a fit for Ruff. If not, said Gorton, he anticipated Quinn would add a veteran guiding hand to his bench staff. Ruff, 58, has coached 24 seasons in the NHL, 19 as head coach in Buffalo and Dallas . . . Game 1 of the Cup Final had a relaxed Ryan Reaves, the gritty Vegas winger picked up from Pittsburgh at the trade deadline, mouthing the words to “Minnie the Moocher” as it blared on the PA system while workers tried to patch up a hole in the ice. Nice to see the man is relaxed, although Reaves, with that healthy wad of gum, might have been better suited for Lonnie Donegan’s “Does your chewing gum lose its flavor on the bedpost overnight.”
The Calder Cup finals began Saturday night in Toronto with the Marlies taking on the Texas Stars for the AHL championship. Brian Flynn, ex- of the Sabres and Canadiens, spent the full season in Texas for $275,000 and put up decent numbers (66 games: 18-29—47). If he is asked back, the ex-UMaine (2012) standout could get a fresh look with the Dallas varsity now that Jim Montgomery, another former Black Bear (1993), has been named Ken Hitchcock’s successor . . . Interesting note on Broten, proud son of Rouseau, Minn.: He played in six NHL cities over his 12-year career, and four of those teams eventually relocated: 1. Colorado Rockies to New Jersey Devils; 2. Minnesota North Stars to Dallas Stars; 3. Quebec Nordiques to Colorado Avalanche; 4. Winnipeg Jets to Phoenix (now Arizona) Coyotes. The Curse of the Broten?