Tim Thomas hasn’t really spoken about anything publicly since his retirement from the NHL in 2014, and he’s never returned to the TD Garden for any Bruins events since a split with the team back in 2012 that wasn’t really all that amicable.
Now 45, Thomas was the unlikeliest of folk hero hockey stories when he broke into the NHL with the Bruins at age 30 after toiling for years in the minor leagues and in Europe. He won a pair of Vezina Trophies and had a brilliant .938 save percentage in the 2010-11 season when Boston won the Stanley Cup.
But the eccentric Thomas, an ardent supporter of the Tea Party political movement, decided to boycott the B's White House visit to celebrate their Cup victory in the 2011-12 NHL season, and that created friction between the goaltender and the hockey club that employed him. He skipped the following NHL season rather than play for the Bruins, and finished out his career unceremoniously with the Florida Panthers and Dallas Stars in the 2013-14 NHL season.
Thomas was rumored to have moved to Idaho in recent years after settling in Colorado following his playing career, but he’d purposefully remained quiet when it came to speaking with the media after he drew criticism for bringing his own personal politics into the B’s visit to the White House.
There were rumblings that he might return to Boston to serve as an honorary banner captain during the Bruins' run to the 2019 Stanley Cup Final, but that never materialized with the mysterious Conn Smythe and Vezina winner. Now it’s in question if we’ll ever again see Thomas back in Boston to be feted as the puck-stopping hero behind the 2011 Stanley Cup championship based on his first public comments in a long, long time.
Thomas was announced as an inductee to the 2019 U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame on Wednesday afternoon in a class that also includes former Bruins forward Brian Gionta and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman among others. The former Bruins netminder was then part of a afternoon conference call with reporters and made several unsolicited references to some sort of anxiety that doesn’t see him traveling or making public appearances very often anymore.
"Everybody probably knows nowadays I don't have that much to say, at least publicly," said Thomas, a two-time Vezina Trophy winner who had one of the NHL’s greatest seasons ever by a goalie in 2010-11. "I've decided to keep whatever I've been doing in my life to myself, probably forever.”
In 378 games with the Bruins, Thomas posted a 196-121-45 record and seemed on track for a run at the Hockey Hall of Fame until things fell apart with Boston in 2012.
Does he ever envision a return to TD Garden for a celebration of his career, or if the 2011 Cup champs are ever called back together in Boston for any reason?
"That's a tough one. With the state of my nervousness since I retired, I wouldn't be able to handle the crowd. It isn't as simple as it may seem,” said Thomas, without really getting into what his newfound nervousness stems from. "It's not fun for me to travel anymore. It has nothing to do with the Boston Bruins or Boston fans. They loved the crap out of me when I was there; it was almost too much to handle.”
Thomas said he prefers that his private life remain private even as he’ll travel to Washington, DC for a December induction ceremony to the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame. The former B’s goaltender did let one personal nugget slip when he mentioned that his daughter earned an internship with the Bruins for this coming year, proving that perhaps the ice has thawed a little between the player and organization all these years later.
Hopefully one day Thomas and the Bruins can find a way to fully reconcile and the brilliant, publicly withdrawn goalie can receive the warm wave of appreciation he deserves from B’s fans for what he — and his team — accomplished eight years ago.
For now it sounds like Thomas is doing just fine living a quiet life outside of the hockey world, and outside of the public realm that became a pretty unwelcoming place for him after the highest apex of his NHL career.
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