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).