Thomas needs a save to restore his legacy
It can still end well here for Tim Thomas. Right now, the Facebook-posting, self-imploding goaltender is shoulder to shoulder with Curt Schilling and Manny Ramirez regarding how Boston will remember him. Not just as a player, but as a person, a key player-citizen in what is the unique nation of Boston sports.
Through a trio of Facebook postings issued over the course of 19 days, the 37-year-old Thomas has told the world that he wants to be heard. He feels the need to get his thoughts out there, and we are left to believe he wants to stimulate thought and conversation.
But he doesn’t want the media talking to him about it, and he told a gaggle of reporters, bloggers, and photographers Thursday at the Bruins practice facility in Wilmington that he’ll simply stop talking whenever he is asked about the personal beliefs he is posting for the world to see.
“Peace. Out, ’’ Thomas said Thursday, abruptly truncating an interview when asked another question about his posting.
OK, count me as confused, and I believe that confusion is headed to a bad place for Thomas, his Boston legacy, his team, and his teammates.
Perhaps Thomas is just naive, acting the way a child does when putting hands to the side of his or her head to block out what a parent or playmate is saying.
Or worse, maybe he’s delusional, truly believing that he can post about the perceived evils of big government and what he believes are threats to religious freedom, and that no one in the media should think, or has the right, to ask for further explanation or context.
Wednesday’s posting, which included a quote from Martin Niemoller, the late Lutheran pastor who wrote the missive, “First they came,’’ touched on such topics as Nazi Germany, trade unions, Jews, Communists, and Catholicism. In this town, any one of those subjects is a pretty good chew. Imagine the reaction had he included a word about hockey?
Whether Thomas is naive or delusional, his “going Facebook’’ is not going to wear well here, not in a town where fans and media invest deeply, perhaps care too much, in every little thing relating to their professional teams and athletes. Not only will fans and media quickly get fed up, but far more important, so will teammates, Bruins management, and ownership.
Contrary to what some of those significant Spoked-B partners are saying publicly right now, Thomas already has irritated some and angered others with his words, as well as his Jan. 23 White House no-show.
One teammate dismissed it with the standard, “Hey, he’s a goalie, what do you expect? They’re all nuts.’’
Sure, funny, to a point. But it will only get worse if Thomas keeps posting, then keeps invoking his right to remain silent, leaving the media to turn repeatedly to teammates, management, and ownership to ask, “Hey, what’s with the goalie? Is he right? Is he angry? And, by the way, what do you think of politics, religion, and do you practice contraception?’’
Eventually, in a team setting, Thomas’s postings and subsequent media attention become corrosive, especially with players, many of whom don’t care about his sociopolitical views or simply don’t want them intruding in their workplace.
Thomas in turn can tell them it’s the media doing the intruding. But that’s the media’s raison d’etre. Case in point: when the intruding media did the legwork that chased Richard Nixon out of the house that Thomas didn’t dare visit because he can’t tolerate bad government. Seems the goalie and the media are sometimes on the same page.
Thomas fails to understand that he has a voice here, delivered through his Facebook missives, because of 1. his success, 2. the team that employs him, and 3. the fellow employees, including players, coaches, and managers, who have aided greatly in his success.
Let’s be clear: He has every right to say anything and everything he pleases. He has the same right not to have to explain himself to the media. Anyone who says otherwise is a fool.
But with freedom and action come reaction and consequence. That is what Thomas is missing, or choosing to ignore. He is not operating in parallel universes, allowing him to deliver missives via Facebook and then assimilate anonymously, and without accountability, back into the team structure.
Oh, he’s right, there is a lot of wacky stuff going on in the world right now, much of it crazier than anything he has touched on in his postings. But he has watched far too many “Star Trek’’ reruns if he believes he can beam himself out of one world and act as if the other one never happened. Whoa, Scotty! Not the way it works. Not even in the make-believe world of pro sports.
True, he is not obligated to respond to the media. But he does have an obligation not to leave his teammates and the Bruins front office left to answer for him. He is, in hockey terms, leaving everyone in the organization out to dry. A goalie should understand how that feels.
Thomas skipped a White House visit, which was a mandatory team event. General manager PeterChiarelli cut him a big break, told him he would not be punished or suspended for not attending, and by nightfall Thomas posted his railings on the government as a means of explaining his absence. Which in turn had club president Cam Neely issuing a statement that Thomas’s actions were disappointing and that his views did not express those of club ownership or the team.
Thomas used the back of the franchise and the shoulders of his teammates to promulgate his views that the US government has run amok. Skipping the mandatory team event could have prompted Chiarelli to fine or suspend him. Which, in turn, could have led Thomas to file a grievance through the Players Association, exposing himself, team, and teammates to more rounds of media scrutiny. I’ll bet, for the good of his team, and the hope of a second Stanley Cup, Chiarelli chose the high road.
Chiarelli, by the way, politely continued to offer “no comment’’ when I asked him his thoughts in the wake of Thomas’s actions Thursday.
Schilling, for all his incessant talk and bluster, remains around town and in decent standing with Red Sox Nation. His self-importance grew to be annoying, but he’s OK, and he remains within earshot while running a video business tethered to another make-believe world.
Ramirez, because of his abundant talent to hit a ball, was a tolerated fool in his Red Sox days. His image was soiled badly by his suspension in Los Angeles for the use of banned substances and later his abrupt quitting in Tampa. He leaves Sox fans wanting to erase him from everything but the box scores.
Thomas is a great talent. For a guy who was ignored and sometimes chided during chunks of his amateur career, his talents minimized and style quirky, he now has a shot of making the Hall of Fame. With one Stanley Cup and two Vezinas, maybe that’s a lock now.
The question for the moment is, what will he leave behind in Boston? Will it be Tim Thomas, the uber-talented scrapper who was the No. 1 reason the Bruins won the Cup in 2011? Or will it be the guy who opted to turn the club’s White House visit into his own political pedestal, then continued to leave everyone else on the team to explain his politics, his sociological beliefs, his views on both freedom of speech and freedom of silence?
If Thomas thinks it’s only the media observing him now with a quizzical eye and a ball of confusion, again he is either profoundly naive or delusional. His teammates and the front office are wondering. Some of them are simmering. So are the fans. What they care most about is the team. Most of them just want to be sure he cares the same.
Schilling’s bloody sock made everyone believe. Ramirez’s parade of horribles made everyone want to forget. What will Thomas’s Facebook page do for him?
WHOSE MOVE IS IT?
Pieces there to fit Bruins
The NHL trade deadline is two weeks from tomorrow, and we have yet to see any deals of substance around the Original 30. Last week’s biggest move was by Columbus (now less than two months from its 10th playoff DNQ in 11 seasons) adding a year to the contract of left wing Vinny Prospal, who will turn 37 Friday. Not likely to change the course of the franchise, but Prospal was on the “watch list’’ here last week as a guy who could add roster depth for a Bruins playoff run.
There should be some deals this week, which is the same week Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli acted last year to pick off the likes of Chris Kelly, Tomas Kaberle, and Rich Peverley. But it’s a very tight market, first and foremost because there remain so many clubs in contention for playoff seeds, especially in the West. Seven clubs, including the freefalling Blackhawks, remain in a demolition derby for the last couple of West seeds.
Hurricanes defenseman Jaro Spacek received a strong tickle from Chiarelli as a free agent in July 2009, but the Canadiens trumped everyone with a three-year deal worth just under $12 million. Spacek was dealt to Carolina this season in the Tomas Kaberle swap and likely will be dumped again by the cellar-dwelling ’Canes.
With Joe Corvo’s contribution so minimal, Spacek’s addition here could be key, both for insurance and to add some day-to-day job competition. He also is known for having a comic touch in the room.
Both Corvo and Spacek are unrestricted free agents as of July 1, so getting Spacek now could give Chiarelli a slight advantage at the negotiating table if he wanted to bring back one or both for next season.
A more vital player on the Carolina roster for the Bruins to consider is veteran center/wing Tuomo Ruutu. He has to be one of their targets, especially with Nathan Horton’s lingering concussion issues. Ruutu becomes an unrestricted free agent July 1.
The biggest wild card could be whether the Ducks, who did not respond to the move to bring in new coach Bruce Boudreau, act on rumors to deal Bobby Ryan and/or Corey Perry. Ryan would attract huge interest on Causeway Street, though it likely would come down to Chiarelli having to offer a package that included one core player (Milan Lucic or David Krejci?) and stud prospect Doug Hamilton.
Capital gains in D.C. hockey
Like the Bobby Orr/Big Bad Bruins days here in the late 1960s and into the ’70s, Alexander Ovechkin and the Capitals have spurred great growth in amateur hockey in the D.C./Virginia/Maryland region, according to a Washington Post story. “It’s the ‘Ovi’ factor, no question about it,’’ said Larry Roe, coaching director of the Reston (Va.) Raiders. “It’s got kids excited about hockey and the Caps.’’ To which Ovechkin added, “When I first got here, three people was in the stands. If somebody screams something bad, you can hear it.’’
New York block party
Overheard recently on the Rangers bench: fiery-eyed coach John Tortorella screaming, “Everybody blocks a shot. Everybody! Everybody blocks a shot or you don’t [expletive] play!’’ And he’s getting them to do it. The Rangers, first in the East and coming to Boston Tuesday night, are playing with passion and grit, factors in short supply for the Bruins over the last 3-4 weeks. It’s not unlike how the Lightning were playing when Tortorella directed them to a Cup win in 2004. The only issue could be burnout or, given the accent on shot-blocking, potential for injury. Meanwhile, superstar Brad Richards, the Blueshirts’ huge free agent signing in July, is on track for a career-low point total. At one point last week he stood 1-2-3 over 12 games. “Obviously,’’ he told the New York Post, “I’m a little lost, offensively.’’
Lots of hockey chat around Seattle last week because a local hedge fund guy, Christopher Hansen (no relation to Les Freres Slapshot), wants to build a new arena near Safeco Field. It sparked a lot of conversation that maybe the NHL will move its bankrupt Phoenix franchise to the Northwest, tucking it up there to give the Canucks a close over-the-border rival. Seattle would be one of the cities for the league to consider, along with Kansas City, Houston, Quebec City, and perhaps Hartford (save the Whale). Commissioner Gary Bettman, during the All-Star break, about potential cities for expansion or transfer: “I don’t have a master list in my office and they haven’t been ranked.’’ Quebec City, by the way, still believes it can have a new rink ready in time for the 2015-16 season, which would dovetail nicely if the Islanders don’t renew their Nassau Coliseum lease that expires at the end of 2014-15. The Islanders are expected to play a preseason game at the new arena in Brooklyn, the home-in-waiting for the NBA’s Nets.
Consumer advocate/protectionist Ralph Nader, in an open letter to Bettman, recently called for the league to stop fighting and to ban hits to the head. Key word used: barbaric. Check out his website: leagueoffans.org . . Toronto GM Brian Burke to USA Today: “Prices are inflated, and there is [only] one Stanley Cup parade at the end of the season. The trade deadline is a pit of quicksand.’’ . . . For all they are doing right, the Rangers have been miserable on the power play. Entering yesterday, they ranked 27th with a measly 13.4 percent success factor. Tough way to win a Cup. Then again, the Bruins did it . . . I call the New NHL game “go-kart hockey’’ - full of speed and lacking in puck control and playmaking. Last week, Blues revivalist Ken Hitchcock labeled it “race-a-riffic’’ hockey in a story by esteemed reporter/essayist Roy MacGregor of Canada’s Globe and Mail. “We tried to still play possession hockey after the lockout,’’ explained Hitch. “And now it’s race-a-riffic hockey. It’s unbelievable how fast the game is, but it’s fast without puck possession. It’s forecheck, forecheck, sometimes it feels like it’s organized chaos out there.’’ . . . Crazy toggling in the standings last week between third and ninth place by the Panthers and Capitals. Looks like one will be seeded third overall and one will go home come playoff time. I’m fine with awarding a playoff berth to each of the divisional winners. But wouldn’t it make more sense for the eight qualifiers each season to be seeded in order, 1-8, when the postseason puck drops? . . . It’s a very outside chance, but the Hurricanes could end up with back-to-back Rookie of the Year winners if defenseman Justin Faulk noses out Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Oilers. RNH takes it, hands down, on talent, but he has been battling the injury bug. Faulk, a second-round pick from St. Paul, was leading all rookies with an average 22:34 in ice time. “He’s arguably been our best defenseman all year,’’ captain Eric Staal told beat reporter Chip Alexander. Fleet winger Jeff Skinner won the Calder Trophy last season with 31 goals and 63 points . . . Ryan Kesler finally appears to be fully recovered from offseason hip surgery and capable of leading the Canucks to another run to the finals. Meanwhile, Vancouver forward Chris Higgins has been sidelined again by a nasty staph infection, the kind that recently forced him out of the lineup after an adverse reaction to antibiotics.
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.