Tim Thomas Has Earned Some Time Away From The Game

commentary by Steve Kendall

Everyone and their brother seem to have an opinion on the latest Tim Thomas saga. Thomas announced on Sunday he was taking this season off from hockey to focus on the three Fs: Friends, Family and Faith.

On his Facebook page, Thomas wrote:

“From the earliest age I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a hockey player. I’ve been blessed in my life to not only be able to live that dream, but to achieve more than I ever thought possible.

The singleminded focus that is necessary to accomplish a dream of this magnitude entails (by necessity) sacrifice in other areas and relationships in life.

At the age of 38, I believe it is time to put my time and energies into those areas and relationships that I have neglected. That is why at this time I feel the most important thing I can do in my life is to reconnect with the three F’s. Friends, Family and Faith. This is what I plan on doing over the course of the next year.”

In the resulting firestorm, fans and commentators have teed off on Thomas for his selfishness, saying he is putting himself before the team. Isn’t everyone’s first obligation to his/her family? If he feels he has been neglecting his family, is he not obligated to put them first? He would be displaying selfishness if he put the needs and wants of his career and ego before the needs and wants of his family.

If any of us had the ability to leave our job for a year, contract or not, and hang out with our children; who would not take advantage of that?

That being said, I don’t think it matters whether Thomas wants to spend more time with his family or not.  Based on his actions and words over the past few months, it seems like he is burnt out on hockey. And if that is the case, The Bruins should be thankful he wants to take a year off.

This should not be surprising. He has traveled the world over the past two decades chasing the dream of an NHL career. He has accomplished everything a player can accomplish: multiple records, two Vezina Awards, a Stanley Cup, and a Conn Smythe Award. Although his NHL career has been brief in comparison to others, Thomas has also made a case for himself for enshrinement in the Hockey Hall of Fame. He is by no means a lock, but he is definitely in the conversation based on his accomplishments.

His late rise to domination did not come without a price. Thomas went from a guy no one wanted to a guy everyone wanted. His performance in the Stanley Cup playoffs last year may never be matched, and his two Vezina Award-winning seasons were among the best in recent history. He earned endorsement deals, spots on talk shows, and has become one of the best-known hockey players in the United States. Though all those things have a positive aspect (money, fame, security), they also come with a dark side.

Tim Thomas’ best saves of 2011 playoffs (You Tube)

Thomas appears to be tired of the spotlight. Yes the spotlight is part of the deal when you play a game for millions of dollars. I think he understands that and dealt with it as long as he could. Now, he just does not need it or want it. He wants time away from the spotlight, away from the pressure, and away from the craziness. That is certainly his right, and if his heart is not in the game, do the Bruins really want him anyway?

Thomas owes nothing to the fans of the Bruins or to the Bruins themselves. If he wants to sit out a year and forfeit his salary, he has the right to do that. Just as the Bruins had the right to trade him after July 1, bench him, send him to Providence, or even buy him out of his contract. As far as the fans go, many gave up on Thomas two years ago. All he did after that was almost single-handedly deliver the city its first Stanley Cup in 39 years.

Any debt he owed the Bruins or the fans was paid then. Enjoy your break, TT.

(Steve Kendall has covered all levels of hockey for over two decades for various publications, including the Boston Herald, Worcester Telegram & Gazette, New England Hockey Journal, and The Hockey Writers. Follow him on Twitter at stevekendallTHW).





11 thoughts on “Tim Thomas Has Earned Some Time Away From The Game”

  1. Good article, Steve.

    I think the people criticizing Timmy are feeling bigger than the boots they wear.If he doesn’t want to play – then he doesn’t play. It’s none of my business. And nobody has the right tell anyone else what the have to do. He wants to spend time with his family and people are calling him selfish, that’s so ridiculous it’s not even worth arguing about.

    I’ll miss watching him play because he was entertaining. But I’m also looking forward to a new era in Bruins goaltending – it’s Tuukka time! I’m also curious to see how Khudobin will do when playing more games (if he ends up being the number 2).
    Timmy brought the B’s a cup.  I don’t think anyone would want to take that back regardless of how they may feel about him now.


  2. The article is fine, as far as it goes. What the writer and others with a like opinion ignore is the self-centered act when the team was invited to the WH. That was a team event – not a photo op for President Obama. I realize other star athletes have done the same. Shame on them too.

    It may be pure coincidene that the Bruins record following that incident was nothing like its record before. I know that is the easy way to blow off an inconvenient truth.

    It is obvious that Timmy set himself apart – no, above – the team. In that, he was helped by acolytes in the fan base and the press who seem to have forgotten it is a team sport – no superstar can win the Cup alone. Sid the Kid hasn’t. Ovechkin hasn’t. Bourque didn’t. Not even Orr. They were members of teams that won the Cup.

    If TT wants to spend more time with family – an excuse used by all sorts of politicians and business people fleeing their job for whatever reason – but if TT wants to – that’s his business. The fact remains that TT has shown himself to be selfish. This latest act may be an extension of that self-centered approach to a team sport.

  3. Thank you, Steve, for the RIGHT perspective. Money and fame SHOULD give us choices in our lives, not make us slaves to MORE. I admire his ability to focus on the value of what he has and not what he can accomplish for the others who measure his life in saves. Most of us who are fortunate to have a loving and supportive family would relish the ability to savor the times when we are all healthy and vibrant and growing, and NOT “wait until we are all compromised” in time and age and opportunity. Admire him for his values. Wish him well and hope that he builds some great personal experiences that he will never regret.

  4. Thank you for writing such a supportive article about Timmy.  A small number of people knew about the issues that came to a head during Christmas where it became “either/or” and IMO Timmy made the right, and only, choice.  His is honoring the commitment that he made before man and God.

    Timmy will always have the support and love of his true fans and those who know that Family ALWAYS comes first.  

    God Bless You and Yours Timmy, we need more like you in sports and in this world.

  5. I don’t think anyone disputes the fact that Thomas has the right to leave. It’s a free country, anyone can walk away from their job if they decide to.

    The real problem is that Thomas’ antics cast a shadow over the Bruins organization for six months. He posted his thoughts about polarizing issues on his Facebook page, and then refused to talk about it. Since he wouldn’t talk about it, the media amplified its coverage with rumours and speculation.

    If Thomas quickly and definitively addressed his thoughts/issues with the media , this wouldn’t have turned into a big deal.

    Does he owe the public an explanation? Probably not. But whether you like it or hate it the reality is that public figures have to face their issues head on so that people will stop talking about it.

    Just ask Tiger Woods. The longer he waited to talk, the worse it got.

    • Sadly, a lot of people are questioning his right to leave. I don’t think TT cares if people like him or hate him … in fact, I think he thrives off people doubting him. He may love the fact people are hating on him — he seems like he is that kind of guy.
      It may well be he needs a year off to heal emotionally. It seems like he might be losing his mind, at least a little bit.

      •  Losing his mind could be. He is hurting his only NHL team bottom line now with 5 mil cap hit ,constant distractions, near zero trade value etc. Bruins management aren’t happy and i’ll bet a lot Bruin players are growing tired of this circus act.
        The up coming CBA will most likely hear about this 35+ player issue.

        •  And so if that’s the case, how does a leave of absence therefore HARM the team?  The salary cap issue is a management one, and there are plenty of ways around it — that’s Chiarelli’s job and plenty of teams have been able to manage and even cheat the cap system.  To me, that’s not a big concern as a result.

          While I believe that TT probably should have chosen time & place a little more wisely with his socio-political thoughts and feelings, in the end, he’s a good goaltender and saved the team more than once despite any ill-will on the part of self-entitled fans (believe me, we here in Detroit know ALL about entitlement when it comes to hockey teams!  Wings fans believe the Cup to be a perennial right!).

          So again, IF there’s discord in the locker room, then how is TT’s intent to take time off a detriment?  The team moves on, Timmy moves on, and management is left to figure out how to manage the numbers, which they will.

          •  Not a big concern to Detroit or other teams sure they don’t mind we know.
            Bruins have 5 mil cap less on the books they can deal with and no you can’t get around it period, and with no player.
            Not to mention a new CBA were the numbers will change to an unknown.
            Basically it limits the team on signings.
            And his trade value now almost zip.

            • For the record and to remove any misconceptions, I’m also a Bruins fan. ;)

              But that’s management’s gig to deal with.  What use is it for fans who AREN’T in the managers’ office in wringing our hands and crying to the skies? :)

              And yes, there are ways to abuse the language of the salary cap and CBA, as most teams have proven with the ridiculous long-term deals with the drop-off years that bring the cap hit down despite paying players $12 million in a particular year.  I can bet with certainty that those who crafted the current CBA never counted on that, and it took only one team to find that loophole (which, I believe, was Philadelphia) before everyone else started doing it.

              I don’t say this as a CBA expert, but rather as someone reasonably familiar with most contractual language.  There is no way to legislate loopholes out of existence.  Someone smarter and more shrewd is ALWAYS out there, waiting to pick through the language to find that one nugget to be exploited.

              I’ll agree that the $5M cap hit is significant, but it’s not the end of the world.

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