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If this is the end for Tim Thomas, what’s his legacy?

Jun 4, 2012, 12:16 PM EDT

Tim Thomas AP

For goalies in their late 20s that still haven’t cracked the NHL, the Tim Thomas story is something to aspire to.

The University of Vermont product was a ninth-round pick in 1994 — a round that doesn’t even exist anymore — and aside from a four game stint with Boston in 2002-03, he didn’t really break into the league until he was 30.

At a time when most goaltenders would have been on the decline, he got better. At a time when most goalies would be entering the twilight of their careers, he was winning Vezinas, a Conn Smythe and a Stanley Cup.

Then, everything changed.

He remained a solid on the ice, but his off-ice decisions starting catching people’s attention. After a dramatic year that included balking on the White House, a series of controversial Facebook postings and a terse relationship with the media, he decided to take a year off citing reasons of family, friends, and faith.

Thomas hasn’t said that he’s retiring but, given his age, coming back would be a tremendous challenge — even for someone with his history of overcoming them.

So if we have in fact heard the last of him, what’s his legacy?

He still has a year left on his contract, so his final gift to (or curse) the Boston Bruins will be his $5 million annual cap hit. They can try to trade that away to a team that wants to get over the cap floor, but they could also be saddled with it heading into a season with great CBA uncertainty.

In the long run, do an athlete’s final acts color their overall contributions? In five or 10 years, will people be sour for how Thomas left Boston, or will they celebrate his career as a whole?

Thomas might have been a distraction in 2011-12 and his actions will hurt the Bruins in 2012-13. Even then, he’s given the team and city a lot — they would have been worse off had he decided in his late 20s that this hockey thing was never going to work out. The argument could be made the 2011 Stanley Cup doesn’t happen without Thomas between the pipes.

Now, the man who served as his backup for three years — Tuukka Rask — will take over. If his career to this point is any indication, he’ll be able to make this transition as painless as possible, but it’ll be difficult given how acrimonious Thomas’ departure was.

  1. eyecorporations - Jun 4, 2012 at 12:20 PM

    He could have just retired without all the hoopla, but since he helped put the fuel in the media fire it’ll stay attached to him for a while at least.

    • michflaguy - Jun 4, 2012 at 1:45 PM

      He’s a quitter…that’s what everyone will remember.

      • drewsylvania - Jun 4, 2012 at 3:13 PM

        Led the Bruins to their first Cup win in almost 30 years, and had probably the greatest goalie season of all time.

        That should win out.

      • hockeyflow33 - Jun 4, 2012 at 4:38 PM

        No he isn’t. He’s one of the greatest goalies we’ve ever seen in Boston and the real fans here will always have the utmost respect for what he did on the ice for us.

  2. GenoPringles - Jun 4, 2012 at 12:36 PM

    I’ll remember him as a commie and the not funny guy in the Peggy commercials

  3. drewzducks - Jun 4, 2012 at 12:38 PM

    Say what you want about him, and there’s plenty that can be said, but without him the Bruins are 40+ years without a cup after turning in one of the greatest post season performances in NHL history.

  4. mianfr - Jun 4, 2012 at 12:38 PM

    Controversies die down, banners hang forever.

    • michiganhockey11 - Jun 4, 2012 at 1:34 PM

      Unless you’re Chris Weber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson….

      • mianfr - Jun 4, 2012 at 2:25 PM

        Sorry, I forget that in the age of participation trophies, teams like to put up banners even when they don’t win championships sometimes.

      • michiganhockey11 - Jun 4, 2012 at 3:30 PM

        Yeah, but I meant the ones they had to take down…as a result of impropriety with boosters and monetary gifts….

  5. stakex - Jun 4, 2012 at 12:55 PM

    What Thomas did on the ice was pretty amazing… especially when you consider how late his NHL career started. Nothing is going to change that. However to think he won’t also be known as the guy who stiffed the President of the United States, and then stiffed his team for a $5 million cap hit on the last year of his contract, would be as irrational as Thomas’s radical views. This will be magnified of course if Thomas does come back and play for a different team in two seasons since it will really look like he hurt his team, perhaps becasue of his views.

    As such his legacy will be one of a truely great story, followed by a huge “but…” at the end of it.

    • hockeyflow33 - Jun 4, 2012 at 4:45 PM

      Not really, guys skip White House visits all the time. If it wasn’t for the ultra-liberal press here in Boston, no one would have cared. John Henry, Theo Epstein and Manny all skipped White House visits and not a word was said about it because it was Bush

  6. emperorzero - Jun 4, 2012 at 1:01 PM

    He’ll be remembered for the on-ice production and eventually the controversies will die down. Bruin fans of course will always remember him for bringing the Stanley Cup, but I have a suspicion most hockey fans will look back at his career and think of a guy like Jim Carrey who was white hot for a short period of time and then disappeared.

    • TestSubjekt - Jun 4, 2012 at 3:05 PM

      Jim Carrey didn’t disappear. He is still making movies. Former goaltender Jim Carey though….

      • emperorzero - Jun 4, 2012 at 6:15 PM

        There’s a difference????

  7. spiffy53 - Jun 4, 2012 at 1:12 PM

    he will be remembered for putting the “i” in “Tim”.

  8. noozehound - Jun 4, 2012 at 1:35 PM

    So the man exercises his first amendment right, and he’s railroaded out of Boston for no legitimate reason. New England is so stupid.

    • michflaguy - Jun 4, 2012 at 1:42 PM

      Hey…HE is the one walking away from the game. Maybe he’s just not tough enough to stay at this level. Might explain why it took him 12 years to break into the NHL.

    • spiffy53 - Jun 4, 2012 at 1:50 PM

      how is he getting “Railroaded”? huh? last i heard, HE is the one who is taking time off to be with Friends, Family and Faith. maybe you are “so stupid”.

    • drewsylvania - Jun 4, 2012 at 3:14 PM

      Uh, he’s the one quitting the team.

  9. michflaguy - Jun 4, 2012 at 1:39 PM

    The guy has *ALWAYS* been a head case. He had one good run in the playoffs and should get the credit for it, but note that I said “good” run – not great. He was a good goalie on a very good team.
    But he also stands as a testament to the old saying “You are not as big as the game”.
    He truly believes that people care about his world views and often incoherent social-political rantings.
    He will quickly discover that no one will remember anything he said, and in a few years, no one will remember him.
    Farewell Timmy…you should have accepted that invitation to the White House.

    • groess - Jun 4, 2012 at 2:35 PM

      Buddy…did you watch the play-offs last year? The Bruins were a good team with a great goaltender. He won the Cup for them last year, that is without question, and hence the easiest Conn Smythe decision in some time.
      If you think no one will remember Tim Thomas, a two time Vezina trophy winner, a Conn Smythe trpohy winner and a Stanley Cup winner, you are sadly delusional my friend.

  10. richter35lundqvist30 - Jun 4, 2012 at 1:40 PM

    His teammates don’t miss spending time with their friends and family? The guy spends so much time talking about “what’s right” and then turns around and walks away from his contract that is costing “his team” 5 million in cap space. He has one year on his contract can’t he just retire after its up and spend the rest of his life on however many “F’s” he wants? Talk about an entitled drama queen, he has to make his announcements during the cup finals to steer the attention back towards him since he got eliminated a month ago.

    • lewdood - Jun 4, 2012 at 3:51 PM

      He’s all for fiscal responsibility — perhaps he should reimburse the team for that cap hit they’re taking. Wouldn’t want him to be seen as someone draining resources from workers actually doing the job, now would we?

  11. geo91 - Jun 4, 2012 at 1:49 PM

    He could learn from Nick Lidstrom how to walk away from the game with grace

  12. kitshky - Jun 4, 2012 at 2:06 PM

    The history of professional sports is littered with selfish headcases, as well as criminals and racists actually, given enough time Thomas’ legacy will be what happened on the ice.

    Ya he’ll be remember for being a kook, but he’ll also be remembered for having one of the most improbable careers and for taking the most impossible path to personal and team success. As well, the commentors above are right … without Thomas that team simply does not beat Vancouver last year and historical championships like those do last forever,

    I loathe some of what he stands for but bigger picture it’ll all get lost in the wash … I think.

  13. davebabychreturns - Jun 4, 2012 at 2:10 PM

    For those criticizing Thomas’ actions as selfish, the fact is that Timmy’s doing the Bruins organization a huge favour.

    He signed his current deal at 35+ so retiring would mean that the Bruins were stuck with a $5m cap hit, this way they can wait for his movement clause to expire and deal him to a team like the Islanders who will be looking to take on dead cap space in order to stay under the cap floor yet again this year.

    • drewsylvania - Jun 4, 2012 at 3:16 PM

      Upshot: Isles are an embarassment. But hopefully they’ll help the Bruins out.

  14. tmoore4075 - Jun 4, 2012 at 3:07 PM

    Most people will forget his crazy stuff after a while but not his play. I will remember a guy who proved people wrong and won a cup for the Bruins but a guy who went a little off his rocker his last year. I have to say it’s been pretty weird ever since the White House thing.

  15. lewdood - Jun 4, 2012 at 3:57 PM

    The fact that he actually took the step to have the Bruin’s colors removed from his mask and equipment as a form of protest against perceived slights by the team when he was crummy and had a hip injury showed me that he had no team-oriented bone in his body.

    If the dude was a black basketball player from 2001-2008 and he pulled half the crap he’s done during his short (but admittedly very strong) career with the B’s, he’d be a national villain right now.

    Lucky for him, he’s white, plays (played?) hockey in New England and won a championship. He’ll be inducted in the New England Sports Hall of Fame in a couple of years…

    • kitshky - Jun 4, 2012 at 4:05 PM

      What is with your country and race … Jesus Christ.

    • banshee950 - Jun 4, 2012 at 4:38 PM

      where did you come up wiht the removing team colors angle? sounds like bs for sports radio guys to fill deadtime to me but feel free to source it.
      I think a black bb player blew off Bush a few years back, couldn’t tell you his name so I guess he’s not much of a villian. Kitshky is right on the money on this one, enough with the race comments. Seems like your baiting habsb/tch into reguritating a tired “Boston is a racist cesspool” rant.

      the Thomas legacy will be he lead the B’s to a cup in a spectacular year, no more, no less. I wish him well and I think media is making more of a deal out of this than it is. he’s doing what he needs to and the B’s will be fine moving forward.

      • lewdood - Jun 4, 2012 at 5:54 PM

        Here’s CSN New England reporter Joe Haggerty discussing the equipment issue in regards to the White House visit back in January:

        James Harrison from the Steelers didn’t go to the White House when either Bush or Obama hosted the team. But he didn’t cite political reasons — he said he just couldn’t be bothered. (

        And why shouldn’t race be brought into the equation? As a factor of the issue in general, it plays into how star athletes are treated by media and fans. When Michael Jordan “retired” from basketball, people thought he was nuts and that he was a fool for wanting to do something different. Lions fans still think Barry Sanders ruined their team by retiring unexpectedly. But because Tim Thomas, the Bruins backbone (along w/ Chara), cites “faith, family and friends” Bruins fans are perfectly fine with him leaving with a year left on his contract and defend him when he causes a media frenzy for selfish political reasons.

        And yes, Boston is a surprisingly racist city. I lived there from 1996-2003. I’m not talking about Brookline, Cambridge and the Back Bay. I’m talking the gritty working class areas like South Boston and Dorchester. The folks I knew from those areas were about as rotten when it came to race as anyone you’d ever find. It’s like time stood still in the 1950’s there, and they’re still pissed about busing.

  16. capsfan19 - Jun 4, 2012 at 10:38 PM

    Brought glory to a team with a rich history. (this is probably the only time i’ll say something nice about the bruins)

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