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24 years after it all began, Kimmo Timonen can finally call himself a champion

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Finally.

Al Bello/Getty Images

Kimmo Timonen has played in every major hockey tournament that exists, and he's come close to victory so many times.

He finished fifth once and fourth twice with Finland in the 1993, 1994 and 1995 World Junior Championships.

He won bronze at the 1998, 2010 and 2014 Olympics. He came within one single goal of gold at the 2006 Olympics, but fell short and took silver.

He took silver three times at the World Championships -- in 1998, 1998 and 2001. He took silver at the 2004 World Cup of Hockey.

He finished second in the 2010 Stanley Cup Final.

Until tonight, aside from two titles in Finland's SM-liiga, he could never call himself a champion. Not at the world's top level of hockey.

People have said that this Stanley Cup doesn't really count for Timonen -- that he showed up at the deadline, was never a major piece on the team, and that he played just a handful of minutes each time he was lucky enough to get into the Chicago Blackhawks lineup. That there's a big old asterisk next to his name on this one.

No. This isn't just the culmination of a single season for Timonen. It's the culmination of an entire career -- a championship-worthy career.

Think of everything he's been through to get here. 24 years of professional hockey. 1,108 NHL regular season games. 571 career points. More than 100 career playoff games. Six heartbreaking second-place finishes. Blood clots, the frustration of a career nearly cut short and the danger of losing more than just a career to chase this dream.

"Where I left in August and I'm standing here, it's crazy," he told ESPN this week. "It's crazy what I went through. There's a risk involved obviously, but I wanted to do it. It was totally up to me and I wanted to take that chance, to have one more chance.

He took the chance. He made the most of that chance. And finally, he can call himself a champion. It's more than deserved.