I think Bruins Nation all raised an eyebrow over Tim Thomas’ Facebook statements(or rants depending on your political agenda) these last two years. Tim Thomas, wearing the Tea Party symbol on the back of his helmet, telling the media that Tim Thomas the player, and Tim Thomas the goalie were two different entities. (How much you choose to believe that is your own business.)I think it is safe to say that we were all a little thrown by the “friends, family, and faith” speech he put up on the social media site. Then went the odd support of Chik-Fil-A and their anti-gay marriage stance.
My personal stance has been this. I love Tim Thomas the HOCKEY player. I tend to disagree with a lot of Tim Thomas the hockey PLAYER says. Would I have a beer with the man and talk politics? That would be very unlikely. Would I buy this man a case of beer and tearfully thank him for June 15, 2011? Damn skippy. I got to watch him live, and in action four times in 2011 and 2012. He never lost when I was there, and the stuff he was doing in the crease….inspiring, if not spectacular.
So, where does that leave us now? I had said that if the season was cancelled, then Tim Thomas would have become the hidden genius of hockey. For a while, it looked like that scenario was actually going to play itself out. Now, the NHL and the players’ union have agreed on a CBA, and we will likely see hockey in the next two weeks. (Theoretically, the home opener will be against the Toronto Maple Leafs on January 21st.) Will we see #30 don the pads one last time for Boston?
The answer is sadly ‘No’. Last Sunday, TSN’s Bob McKenzie put up on Twitter the following material. “Said to be content/happy living with his family in Colorado, Thomas not interested in fulfilling final contract yr with BOS/any other team.” Well, we figured that was going to happen anyway. It doesn’t mean it hurts any less. Tim Thomas is the man that made me believe in hockey and fall in love with the Bruins. This was the guy who was my age, been through serious injuries and surgeries, and had walked a long and ugly staircase to get to the NHL. Then there was that magical season where I got to see him transcend his position, and bring the Stanley Cup back to Boston. (The last time that had happened I was nine months old.)
So what will the Bruins do? The Bruins believe that Tuukka Rask is ready to start for the team, and their primary back up will be Anton Khudobin. Personally, I’m comfortable that these men can fill the crease and keep Boston a competitive team this year. They’re ready to help rescue the Cup. To me though, it just won’t feel the same without #30 in the crease. There is something to be said about a man that is dancing in his zone, sporting a moustache that needed its’ own zip code, and playing with the intensity of a World Juniors player.
Bruins management is also fully prepared for the loss of Thomas. Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli was ready for this scenario back in the summer. “If he wasn’t playing I would have to suspend him. His cap number would still be on the cap. We would have relief through Savard being on the cap, so it would almost be a wash that way, and that’s the way we would proceed through the year. We’re not seriously cramped from the cap perspective. As I’ve said, we’ve got Marc Savard on LTI and he’s at $4 million, and Tim’s at $5 million, so do the math and we’re maybe a million short. So we’re not seriously disabled there. It’s something that I’ll approach delicately with Tim.”
It’s a bloody shame. For all the weird comments, and the odd politics, Tim Thomas could have very likely had a statue near Bobby Orr’s. He would have probably had his number retired. Now, neither scenario seems likely. All I can ask is when an up-and-comer from Providence, or a trade from another club gets the #30, they take the time and realize that there is a great hockey legacy behind that number. Whatever our personal feelings, that legacy deserves respect.