Thursday night, Tim Thomas gets his first shot at facing his former team when the Florida Panthers welcome the Boston Bruins to South Florida. That saga was a journey in and of itself.
On April 28, 2012 - two days after the Bruins fell to the Washington Capitals in a shocking first round exit - Thomas entered the home locker room at the TD Garden for the last time. Fans, pundits and teammates figured that Thomasí appearance would be the last with the Black and Gold. Two months later, Thomas indeed confirmed his ďexileĒ from hockey in one of his many Facebook posts.
That 2011-12 season was not an easy one for Thomas, as he took a fall from grace. But first letís turn back the clock a bit.
In 2010-11, Thomas posted one of the best single seasons for any goaltender in history. He surpassed Dominik Hasek for the top save percentage in league history during the regular season. Then, during the postseason, he compiled one of the best performances in Stanley Cup Playoff history that included four shutouts (two against the Vancouver Canucks) and was the backbone of the teamís first taste of Lord Stanley in 39 years.
Thomas was indeed the hero of the Stanley Cup run. His blue-collar work ethic was admired by many as he hoisted the Cup in Vancouver. He was on the face of many newspapers and magazines, both locally and nationally. He signed endorsements for Arbella Insurance and Discover. (Who can forget Peggy?) He could certainly do no wrong to many supporters in The Hub of Hockey.
Then, on a late January afternoon, Thomas decided to make headlines again. But not for the reasons he hoped.
On a day where the Bruins were being honored by President Barack Obama - whatís usually the cherry top of a season - Thomas decided to bail out on his teammates and skip the ceremony. He then took to Facebook to explain his absence and drew a mixed reaction.
But while Thomas used a public platform to express his personal political views, he refused to speak to the media when questioned about his Facebook posts. The media would then ask his fellow teammates about Thomasí views distracting the team, and that in it and itself was a distraction.
As a result, the Bruins and Thomasí performance suffered due to his off-ice antics. The team wasnít able to recover, nor was Thomas. And the saga of the 2011-12 season was left with more questions than answers.
Nearly a year after his last appearance, GM Peter Chiarelli traded Thomas in a salary dump to the New York Islanders. Thomas did not report to Long Island during the lockout-shortened season, but the Isles got off the cap floor. The trade freed up cap space for the Bís and it didnít hurt the Isles in the long run, either, as they advanced to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2007.
Eight months after the trade, Thomas signed his deal with the Panthers. And here we are today, a day in which the government re-opened, where everyone has gone their separate ways.
The Boston Bruins have moved on behind their current franchise goaltender, Tuukka Rask. Tim Thomas has moved on to resume his hockey career and play in a market that may tolerate his political views more than Boston did. The fans and media have moved on to their daily lives.
Still, both good and bad, Thomas left several memories when he donned the Spoked ĎBí. And those memories, from his political views to his journey just to get to the National Hockey League, are all part of his legacy.
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