The name ‘Tomas Vokoun’ doesn’t conjure memories of Stanley Cups, gold medals or Vezina Trophies. He came and went without leaving an epic legacy. But he enjoyed an underrated career elevating some minnow teams, and everything he accomplished came despite some mental and physical health woes.
Claimed by Nashville in the 1998 expansion draft, Vokoun shared the net with Mike Dunham for four seasons before Dunham was dealt. Vokoun became a workhorse for the Predators, finishing in the top 10 in Vezina voting three straight seasons and starting the franchise’s first playoff series, posting a .939 save percentage in six games. He was especially great as a Florida Panther, posting a .923 SP across four seasons. Vokoun never became a star, but he was very steady. From 2002-03 to 2011-12, he ranked fourth in games and shutouts, sixth in wins and fifth in save percentage among NHL goalies who played 250 or more games.
That run is more impressive considering Vokoun was diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder in 2003. The condition didn’t mean he’d repeat specific behaviors. Instead, Vokoun’s OCD gave him obsessive negative thoughts. He couldn’t put his mind to rest after a game or shake worries about problems at home. With treatment and medication, however, he got his mind back on track and his best seasons followed.
But Vokoun’s tribulations weren’t done. In 2006, he was hospitalized with blood clots in his pelvis. The clots resurfaced before 2013-14, and he never played another NHL game even after earning a clean bill of health, as he was 38 by then. The clots were the result of scar tissue from where a catheter was inserted after hot coffee was spilled on him when he was 10 months old.
By the time he retired, Vokoun had joined the exclusive 300-win club. An impressive feat for someone who faced such serious career hurdles.
Born: July 2, 1976, Karlovy Vary, Czech.
NHL Career: 1996-2013
Teams: Mtl, Nsh, Fla, Wsh, Pit
Stats: 300-288-78, 2.56 GAA, .917 SP, 51 SO
DID YOU KNOW?
Vokoun’s first NHL start was a nightmare. As a 20-year-old Montreal rookie, he got blitzed by Philadelphia’s ‘Legion of Doom’ line, allowing four goals on 14 shots in the first period and was pulled by coach Mario Tremblay.