WASHINGTON, D.C. Perhaps a quick Tim Thomas anecdote will shed a little light on the goaltenders politically-charged decision to skip Mondays team visit at the White House with the Stanley Cup.
CSNNE was doing a piece weeks ago on Andrew Ferences efforts to recycle and encourage his Bs teammates to live environmentally-conscious lifestyles in their day-to-day existences as hockey players.
Several of Ferences teammates, like Tyler Seguin and Zdeno Chara for instance, smiled and spoke about the nuanced ways the forward-thinking defenseman had affected them in a positive way. Seguin said he now shops for all his groceries at Whole Foods for the environmentally-agreeable organic foods recommended by Ference, and Chara mentioned taking his bicycle everywhere rather than driving.
But Tim Thomas politely declined when asked his opinions about Ferences efforts, and admitted weve got pretty opposite viewpoints on that kind of stuff.
Thomas went on to say with the wonderful usage of paraphrasing in hindsight that he didnt believe in the scientific theories powering the greenhouse effect and global warming. Instead Thomas felt like the efforts behind both notions were being pushed by those interested in growing the current green industry thats turned into a cash cow in the United States over the last decade.
Thats pretty radical, right?
But its not all that distant from something you might hear tossed around on Fox News during any random weeknight broadcast where the restless right wing talking heads rule the roost. That memory immediately came to mind when it was first noticed that Thomas was the only current Bruins player missing from attendance at the White House. Mark Recchi, Shane Hnidy and Tomas Kaberle arent with the team anymore, and they still made the trek to the nations capital for the high honor.
It wasnt all that jaw-droppingwhenThomas opted out of the White House visit and the photo op with President Barack Obama. Thomas has always seemed to lean very far to the right perhaps reaching all the way over toradical tea party range with his personal politics, and theres no doubting it played into his decision. Perhaps hes so far over that hes passed right on by the edge of the "right" and into a whole different category where things start getting a little goofy.
Thomas world beliefs are pretty far off-center in most cases, but he genuinely stands behind them. There is something to be admired about all of that.
The 37-year-old goaltender released a statement distancing himself from either political party and simply stated he believes the current US government is broken.
I believe the Federal government has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties, and Property of the People, said Thomas in a statement. This is being done at the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial level. This is in direct opposition to the Constitution and the Founding Fathers vision for the Federal government.
The funny thing is that the Hollywood-actress thin statement brought very little to the table beyond tea party rhetoric. Thomas had a golden opportunity to look Obama dead in the eye and engage him in some lively conversation about his beliefs. That is the true democratic way: expressing beliefs, exchanging ideas and engaging in healthy debate over whatever is ailing this wonderful country of ours.
Instead Thomas an American hero, an Olympian and the epitome of the American success story while building up from meager beginnings in Flint, Michigan remained behind at a hotel in Washington, D.C. crafting a Facebook message while his teammates, coaches, managers and team owner answered questions about his absence.
Bruins President Cam Neely respected that his goaltenders personal beliefs kept him away from the pomp and circumstance with the Commander in Chief, but his public disappointment spoke volumes about the organizations feelings on a day intended to be a breezy, feel-good moment. Peter Chiarelli tried multiple times to convince Thomas to change his mind and do what was best for the team and the Bs organization.
But Thomas made a pretty symbolic change at the beginning of last season when he drained the Black and Gold colors from his goaltending pads and goalie mask after a summer of trade rumors. Thomas removed the Bruins logo from his mask and instead replaced it with an image of the lucky coin he wears around his neck.
The message was simple: From then on, Thomas was playing for himself first and the team second. He's obviouslycaptured a Stanley Cup with that mentality, but itseemed to again be the case on Monday at the White House.
As an organization we were honored by President Obamas invitation to the White House. It was a great day and a perfect way to cap our teams achievement from last season, said Neely in a statement. It was a day that none of us will soon forget. We are disappointed that Tim chose not to join us, and his views certainly do not reflect those of the Jacobs family or the Bruins organization.
Thomas liberty-given rights, and his courage for that matter, to stand out as the only player opting out of the ceremony were never in question. Any athletic champion can decline a Presidential invitation if they choose to. Everyone remembers that Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein was conspicuously missing from both White House visits in 2004 and 2007 when Republican President George W. Bush was in office.
There was an opportunity for Thomas to make a statement about the current plight of government in the country he loves, and he seized it like a 100-mph heat-seeking puck headed straight at him.
Theres little doubt Thomas world view has been shaped strongly by his upbringing in hardscrabble Flint, Michigan. So he took his shot and stirred up national debate in the process. On some level it probably accomplished every goal he set out for when listing Glenn Beck as the person hed most like to have dinner with if given the choice.
But there was a Chara-sized downside to Thomas actions that speak to the biggest critique of the Conn Smythe Trophy winner and Vezina Trophy winner as an overall hockey teammate.
Hes often looked at as a Lone Wolf that doesnt have very much in common with his teammates. Thomas often goes his own way throughout the season, but thats not unusual for a goaltender. Its also not to indict him as a divisive influence or a problem because hes neither of those things.
But Thomas clearly went his own way with the White House event, and his actions largely overshadowed the moment for everyone else in the Bruins organization, whether Thomas fans like it or not.
The question was never whether Thomas HAD the right to skip the White House visit, but SHOULD he simply have stifled his personal interests for the betterment of a team celebrating their win one last time. Many will applaud the Bs goaltender for damning the torpedoes and simply doing what he felt was right in his world view. That is the kind of stand-alone bravery that can foster change in times when its needed.
But heres one suggestion: why not announce Thomas intentions prior to the visit in order to defuse the situation and take the heat out of it on Monday afternoon. Thomas is wonderful at stopping pucks in tense situations and hes one of the most humble athletes youll ever come across.
But hes not a brilliant PR strategist and there seems to have been no notion of getting out ahead of the train wreck that steamed into the East Wing of the White House Monday afternoon. The day should have been about Obama mentioning the Little Ball of Hate to Brad Marchands red-faced embarrassment. Or perhaps it should have been about Obama mistakenly referencing the baptism of Dennis Seidenbergs son in the Cup when it was actually his two daughters baptized in the Stanley Cup on a boat off the coast of Atlantic City this summer.
Everybody makes mistakes, right?
But instead the worlds eyes, ears and mouths were dishing with frothy fervor about Thomas thumbing his nose at the presidents invite.
The teams actual White House honoring turned into nothing more than a minor sidelight rather than the marquee top-billing it truly deserved. For that Thomas should perhaps be a little remorseful even if his government protest was well within his rights as a red-blooded, radical free-thinking Son of Freedom.