Is the Real Tim Thomas an Iconoclast or a Hypocrite?

Less than a mere 365 days ago, goaltender Tim Thomas had earned the adulation of the entire NHL world, backstopping the Boston Bruins to their first Stanley Cup title in 39 seasons. In a post-game interview after shutting out the Vancouver Canucks in Game 7, Thomas noted that he could not believe the season was finally over and indicated that his mindset was that there was still yet another opponent and playoff round to follow. At the time, what was there not to like? A kid from Michigan holding up the Cup and Conn Smythe Trophy as the 2011 Playoff MVP.

Today, Thomas remains a Stanley Cup Champion but has lost the respect of a lot of people in the bizarre manner he conducted the announcement of his one-year sabbatical over the weekend.

Between the pipes this past season, Thomas’ play had not slipped much, as the Bruins won 35 of his 55 starts while still being considered “the franchise” by Boston play-by-play man/cheerleader Jack Edwards – called as such after a teammate came to his defense to confront an opposing player after a goalmouth scramble during a game. You can watch Jack call another classic Tim Thomas moment here.

Outside the rink, there where whispers about T-Squared becoming an “iconoclast,” a word that was last suited for controversial chess icon Bobby Fischer back in the day. First came the episode where Thomas chose not to partake in the team’s visit with President Barack Obama. That is not the first time that particular stand has been taken by an athlete, regardless of whom the sitting president might had been. It is a stance that I don’t necessarily agree with and can come back to bite someone in the butt (see Mark Chmura/Bill Clinton). Thomas’ decision also gave the first clue that he was putting himself above his own team.

tim thomas stanley cup champion

Thomas used Facebook to explain his decision to skip the team’s Obama visit and used his social media page to vent on other geopolitical issues during the season. Late last week, word leaked that Thomas was considering taking a year off from the NHL, which is the final year of his four-year/$20 million contract with the Bruins.

Saturday night, Thomas made a Facebook post linking to a pair of stories warning of an imminent global economic meltdown under the caption “See Why Hockey’s Just Not That Important Right Now??”

On Sunday, Thomas announced his intentions on not playing the 2012-13 season, noting that he plans on focusing on the three F’s, “Friends, Family, and Faith.”  Thomas closed his announcement keeping the door open to a possible return by saying, “We’ll see…God’s will be done.”

Thomas also added that he intends on continuing to “train using the ARP/POV System and using G-Form in the development of protective equipment.”

Nice to work those plugs in the middle of all that Timmy…

Also on his Facebook page you can find information on how to register your kids for youth hockey camps that Thomas is apparently still intending on holding this summer.

Talk about hypocrisy at its finest.

I’ll quote another of my Facebook feeds from Sunday, that of Los Angeles-based sportswriter Joe McDonell, who spoke for many by saying the following…

“Besides hockey fans in Boston, who gives a rat’s ass if Tim Thomas takes a year off? Another guy who wants more attention – and probably will be back before the year is out. Have a nice vacation, Tim.”

Perhaps it will end up being the best use of sabbatical since Ron Artest got himself suspended from the NBA to produce a music album that bombed miserably.

Personally I am not going to discount the possibility of global economic doom. I’m also not going to question Mr. Thomas’s assertion that a dumb game being played on a sheet of ice by people on ice skates chasing a puck with sticks as not being important in comparison to other world matters.

Growing up back in the day following sports as a kid it suddenly dawned on me one day – why are these games supposed to be important anyways?

For years afterwards I grappled with that question before slowing realizing, it’s a passion, it is competition, and it is entertainment.

More recently I personally had to deal with the prospects of being unemployed and realizing that my favorite teams doing well doesn’t mean much in the big picture if I was unable to pay the rent.

There have been other athletes who have quietly walked away from the game while still relatively in their primes – Robert Smith and Jake Plummer are examples from the pro football ranks. These were cases of players who weren’t enjoying the profession as much and felt like they had earned enough money, they left and never looked back.

tim thomas sabbatical

My question is if Tim Thomas really thinks the world economy is about to go belly-up, then why not make $5 million to play hockey next season. Thomas is 38 years old, and it isn’t like he has a lot of years left to make money playing a silly game like hockey. If I read a story 10 years from now about Thomas declaring bankruptcy, I’m not going to say I told you so – does it make sense to have someone helping “provide for his family” by leaving money on the table???

Or maybe money is about to become so worthless that everyone from Warren Buffett to highly paid athletes/entertainers to the common person are all about to be wiped down to nearly zero.

If that’s the case, then why the hell is Thomas asking parents to spend a good chunk of the hard earned money they have now to attend his hockey camps???

From a Boston Bruins perspective, this is not the apocalypse, even if Thomas feels the real apocalypse is nigh. First off, Thomas is not “the franchise” – that title would belong to defenceman Zdeno Chara. Also goaltender may be the most important position in the game, but it’s also the most replaceable. Thomas knows this first-hand by first arriving on the NHL scene as a late-bloomer at age 32 when injuries struck Boston’s other goaltenders a few years back.

Still, Thomas is doing his best to screw the Boston organization. By not officially retiring, the team is still responsible for a $5 million cap hit for the upcoming season, whether Thomas plays. Backup Tuukka Rask is just as capable and had a stellar season himself a couple years back but is now a restricted fee agent. Now that Thomas has played his hand, Rask’s asking price in free agency goes way up, which will put the Bruins in further cap trouble unless they let Rask go and gamble on a cheap alternative.

If I were to hypothetically turn this around and say a year from now Aaron Rodgers decided to leave the NFL for some other venture, as a fan I wouldn’t harbor any grudges because if he quit now Rodgers still won a Super Bowl for the Packers.

The Tim Thomas case is different, however, even if he won his team the Cup that other franchises such as Vancouver still hunger. First, how about a press release or maybe even a press conference. Oh wait, then he has to face people and answer questions. Again, I would accept his reasons for leaving if they made sense. I’ve seen athletes retire before for personal and even religious reasons.

It’s not that Thomas is a troublemaker or gets in trouble with the law nor is he even a bad guy – and is obviously entitled to free speech as an American. But what you do have is someone who on one hand plays hockey, runs youth hockey camps, and even appeared on TV commercials during the season, and on the other hand talks about the ills of the world and about the game not having meaning. I’m sure Don Cherry will have plenty more on this topic during the rest of the current Stanley Cup Finals on Canadian television.

I say it’s piss-or-get-off-the-pot time. If Tim Thomas has had it with hockey, do your team a common courtesy and retire since your contract is up after 2012-13 anyways. But when he lands in Iceland looking for real estate near Bobby Fischer’s old haunts, and he steps into the cab in Reykjavik on his way to personally visit Peggy at the credit card company’s global call center to get his lost card replaced, don’t be surprised if the cabbie says…

“You’re Not Tim Thomas…”

About the Author

Kurt Allen

Have written/blogged about sports since 2000, along with starting my popular Twitter feed in 2009. I also closely follow fantasy sports developments, along with events such as the NFL Draft.