Retired NHL goaltender Tim Thomas broke a yearslong public silence Wednesday after being named as part of the United States Hockey Hall of Fame’s class of 2019.
The mercurial Thomas, who led the Boston Bruins to the Stanley Cup in 2011 and made headlines for refusing to visit then-President Barack Obama at the White House, has avoided the spotlight since walking away from hockey in 2014. Thomas was short on details about what he has been up to since his playing days ended but dropped some hints about how far he has separated himself from his past life.
“Everybody probably knows nowadays I don’t actually have all that much to say, at least publicly,” Thomas said on a conference call with reporters. “Obviously I’ve decided to keep what I’ve been doing with my life and learning to myself at this point, for sure, and probably forever.”
Thomas, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, longtime NHL forward Brian Gionta, Washington youth hockey staple Neal Henderson and U.S women’s star Krissy Wendell will be inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame at a ceremony in the nation’s capital Dec. 12.
Thomas eight years ago became the oldest player to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP and is a Boston sports hero for his role in the Bruins’ first championship since 1972. He said last season’s playoffs were the first he had watched since retiring because the Bruins were doing so well. He brushed off the idea of returning to his old home arena.
“With the state of my nervous system since I retired, I wouldn’t be able to hardly handle the energy of the crowd in Boston,” Thomas said. “So it isn’t as simple as it may seem. Having said that, you never know what the future may hold. I’m just taking life as it goes.”
Thomas revealed that his daughter this week landed an internship with the Bruins and emphasized she earned it. Asked about that being a gateway to getting him back involved in the game, the 45-year-old said he highly doubts that will happen.
“I just don’t see it,” Thomas said. “I have other interests. I have a totally other focus. I live in a totally different world than the hockey world that I lived in before. I live a long ways away from Boston, and it’s not that fun for me to travel anymore. It isn’t anything to do with the Boston Bruins or the Boston fans, especially. My goodness, they loved the crap out of me when I was there to the point where it was hard to handle.”
A two-time Vezina Trophy winner as the league’s top goalie, Thomas sounds comfortable remaining at a distance from hockey.
“I don’t personally have any relationship with the game,” he said. “My focus and mind is on learning about other stuff. I learned so much about hockey and that area. I feel like I’ve learned as much as I needed to learn about it. My focus is on learning about other stuff.”
Bettman, inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto last year, oversaw the growth of the NHL from 24 to 31 teams with a 32nd coming in 2021. The New York native spearheaded much of the expansion of hockey into so-called nontraditional U.S. markets.
Gionta put up 595 points in 16 NHL seasons and won the Cup with New Jersey in 2003. He represented the U.S. in the 2006 and 2018 Olympics.
Henderson in 1978 co-founded the Fort Dupont Ice Hockey Club, the oldest minority hockey club in North America, and was part of the NHL’s launch of its “Hockey is for Everyone” initiative.
Wendell won two NCAA titles at Minnesota and ranks fourth all-time with 2.35 points a game. She put up 247 points in 147 international games, was the MVP of the 2005 world championships when the U.S. won gold for the first time and served as captain at the 2006 Olympics.