By Bob Mand, Boston Bruins Senior Correspondent
The Boston Bruins were honored guests at the White House Monday afternoon, as President Barack Obama and the nation once again congratulated them for their 2011 championship season – unfortunately goaltender Tim Thomas was noticeably missing from the ceremony.
It was a banner event. Except for that one minor thing: The best player from the Stanley Cup Championship squad, their playoff MVP, arguably the best American hockey player on the planet, a U.S. silver medalist and Olympian wasn’t in attendance.
Tim Thomas: Hockey folk hero and two-time Vezina Trophy-winner skipped the party.
The reasons behind his absence left many in disbelief. Thomas, whose support for conservative political causes is no secret, decided to abstain because of political beliefs. From his Facebook page, Thomas made a statement about his decision, saying:
“I believe the Federal government has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties, and Property of the People.
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.
Because I believe this, today I exercised my right as a Free Citizen, and did not visit the White House. This was not about politics or party, as in my opinion both parties are responsible for the situation we are in as a country. This was about a choice I had to make as an INDIVIDUAL.
This is the only public statement I will be making on this topic. TT”
Of course, this was met with a wide range of opinions from complete adulation to disbelief and disappointment. Among those who support Thomas, many admired his decision to stand up for his beliefs (seeing this as an excellent opportunity to demonstrate freedom of speech) to decry what some see as the decline of America and to protest what many see as grievous faults with the Obama Administration.
Some of those decrying the decision saw it as a selfish act which took away from the focus on his team, especially considering his place as (arguably) America’s premier goaltender and the hero of the 2011 playoffs. Others saw this as political grandstanding in what isn’t arguably a specifically political event. Still more saw the situation as Thomas’ failure as a teammate, lessening the honor and the unity the situation would have otherwise been bestowed.
This decision was apparently a long time coming. Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli (who himself attended the event) said that he’d had a number of talks with Thomas in past months about his potential attendance (or it appears, lack thereof). Apparently, those talks weren’t fruitful.
Still, it seems the organization was sympathetic. Thomas won’t be suspended for missing a team event and Bruins’ President, Cam Neely told CSNNE: “Everybody has their own opinions and political beliefs. He chose not to join us … We certainly would have liked to have him come and join us. But it’s his choice…”
In the end, his choice (while certainly selfish to a degree) wasn’t gaudy or abrasive, loud or harsh. He stepped out of the spotlight and let his teammates receive their laurels, refusing to discuss the decision except for his one remark on Facebook hours later.
While one could find his actions to be selfish or disrespectful and his beliefs wrong or even foolish, the fact that he stood up for his beliefs commands respect. While many may admonish his decision to neglect a team even to stand up for his political views – perhaps instead he should be lauded for following his values before all else.
Timmy missed out on a great honor – one an American let alone an Olympic medalist would be hard-pressed to top. Many Bruins fans and Americans (and perhaps evens some teammates) will find fault with his decision. It’s certainly disappointing that he wasn’t there for the ceremony. Still, while his principles might be wrong, standing up for them definitely isn’t.
Bob is a Boston Bruins Correspondent for The Hockey Writers. He lives in the Boston Metro Area with his wife, Amanda and their five-year-old son, Cormac.