Game 7 on the road, winner takes all.
The Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks are in a deadlock with hockey’s ultimate prize on the line.
The difference-maker between these two teams? 36-year-old goaltender Tim Thomas.
Shutting out the Canucks, the NHL’s best team during the 2010-11 season, and putting the finishing touches on an all-time postseason performance, Thomas would backstop his team to a 16-9 record that postseason with an astounding 1.98 goals-against average, .940 save percentage and 20.72 GSAA (goals-saved above average) and of course, the Stanley Cup.
This dominant performance would earn Thomas Conn Smythe honors as the most valuable player of the entire postseason. It would also cement Thomas’ place as a Boston legend.
Three years later, though, Thomas was gone.
In 2013, Thomas had been traded from Boston to the New York Islanders after announcing he wouldn’t play that season following the lockout. He’d never suit up for the Islanders, however, and would place a total of 48 more games between the Florida Panthers and Dallas Stars in his career before disappearing from the world.
This may seem hyperbolic, but for years, it really did seem like Thomas had disappeared from the world altogether.
Many joked that he was building a bunker to live in for the rest of his life. Despite the jokes, though, Thomas truly has been and will forever be celebrated in the city of Boston as a Champion and a legend with every other goalie to pass through Boston being compared to him in some way, shape or form.
Unfortunately, Thomas’ departure from the public eye wasn’t for the reasons anybody would have hoped.
With the now-45-year-old Thomas being enshrined in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame on Thursday night, he’d detail what his life after hockey has been like.
Thomas’ Battles With Concussions Shed Light On His Absence
In a 15-minute discussion with media prior to his induction to the Hall of Fame, Thomas would recount the last few years of his life post-hockey.
Dealing with post-concussion syndrome symptoms, Thomas’ day-to-day life is far from what it normally was prior to a concussion he suffered in 2013.
“I wake up every day and basically I have to reorder everything in my mind for the first couple hours of the day and then make a list and try to make some choices to get some stuff done,” Thomas would say of the situation.
A CereScan showed that two-thirds of Thomas’ brain is getting less than 5% blood flow. The final third is getting less than 50%.
“I’ve struggled mightily with how do I process the experience that I’ve been through and rectify that with the love of the game that I had my whole life until I crashed, so to speak.”
It isn’t hard to understand why Thomas disappeared for so long. Even now, this had to be difficult to process everything that he’s been through and articulate it publically. Thomas would mention as much during the discussion.
“I didn’t want to talk about this. I didn’t want to talk. I didn’t want to tell the world this stuff. Not till I felt ready, and I didn’t feel ready yet. But here I am.”
Thomas speaking to some of his former teammates Wednesday night prior to the Bruins match against the Washington Capitals was a heartwarming story before this news broke. Now, it remains heartwarming, but it’s also heartbreaking at the same time.
For years, Thomas would stand side-by-side with these players in what, at the time, felt like the most important thing in the world.
Fast-forward a few years, however, and it’s clear that hockey is and always will be a game while mental and physical health are truly what matters the most.
Thomas Former Teammates Excited for His Enshrinement
When speaking about their interactions with Thomas after the game, a few of his former teammates mentioned that it was great to see him and that it was surprising for them as well.
“I just told him I was happy for him and congrats. He looks like he’s got a 6-pack now, so I’m just happy for him. It was great to see him. It’s been a while,” said former-teammate Brad Marchand. “There are a lot of great memories from that group, especially for him to be honored in the Hall of Fame. He definitely deserves it. I didn’t know we were going to see him tonight.”
Patrice Bergeron would mirror these sentiments.
“It was great. It was my first time seeing him in a long, long time, so it was great to see him. He looked great too,” said Bergeron. “I congratulated him on the well-deserved honor. The impact that he has had for us with the Bruins, and also in that Cup run, is something that’s going to be remembered for a long, long time. We haven’t forgotten obviously, so it was good to see him.”
Thomas deserves his enshrinements into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame. He also deserves a life beyond hockey. It’s an uphill battle every single day, but he won’t be alone on this journey.
Similarly to the way he was the backbone of the Bruins for so many years, the entire city of Boston will be standing behind him in spirit as he looks to continue this healing promise.