Tim Thomas will undoubtedly be drawn and quartered by many in the court of public opinion for not pumping U.S. president Barack Obama’s tires by refusing to attend the Boston Bruins Stanley Cup celebration at the White House.
Not in this corner, however. In fact, I believe you have to admire and respect Thomas for taking a stance so bold and passing up the opportunity of a lifetime to support his rather, ahem, unique political beliefs.
Yes, Thomas is a staunch conservative and apostle of Glenn Beck, which is curious since he is originally from Flint, Mich., an area that is one of the most depressed in the country and a place that capitalism and big business most definitely forgot. And it’s not as though this kid was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. His parents had to hawk their wedding rings to pay for hockey camp when he was a youngster and Thomas helped out by selling apples door-to-door every fall.
But Thomas’s politics don’t even matter here. What does is that Thomas exercised his right to be a conscientious dissenter and the Bruins showed a lot of maturity by accepting his decision and not using strong-arm tactics to force him to go by threatening to suspend him.
As sports fans and members of the media, all we ever ask is that the people who play the games have a mind of their own and don’t conduct themselves like mindless automatons. Too often we are disappointed. So when one of them uses his position of celebrity to express his opinion, we should be celebrating it. This is not Michael Moore saying “Shame on you, George Bush,” at the Academy Awards or the Dixie Chicks calling Bush a moron – which are both entirely acceptable as well, but far more controversial. This was a very thoughtful, articulate and pensive athlete respectfully declining an invitation.
Now if Martin Brodeur or Scott Stevens had snubbed the White House in 2004 to protest the Bush-led U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, my guess is they both would have had all kinds of unwavering support in the media for taking such a courageous stance. To vilify Thomas for taking a similar stance just because he leans far to the right would be unfair. And to be fair to Thomas, he insisted he would have done the same thing had a Republican been holding the highest office in the land.
You may think Thomas is being a little extreme when he explains his actions by saying, “I believe the Federal government has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties and Property of People,” (capital letters were his) but who can possibly argue with him when he says, “Because I believe this, I exercised my right as a Free Citizen and did not visit the White House.”?
Thomas is sure to hear a chorus of boos in every opposing U.S. rink he plays in over the next couple of months, but he’ll be fine with that. What is more intriguing is how will his stance play with his teammates and the 30 GMs in the NHL who vote for the Vezina Trophy? GMs are members of the hockey establishment and as such, would likely take a dim view of what Thomas did. But let’s hope that if they don’t vote for Thomas for the Vezina this season it’s because they think Henrik Lundqvist was better and not because Thomas put the NHL in an unfavorable light for a couple of days.
His teammates? My guess is that as long as Thomas continues to play well and helps to keep the Bruins at the top of the NHL standings, they’ll stand by him on the ice even if he calls for a return of Prohibition and higher taxes for the rich. Teammates have managed to coexist and even be successful despite having a hate-on for teammates for things far more egregious than this. Those who occupy the executive offices in Boston have already made their feelings known and consider the matter to be closed.
And that’s as it should be. There will likely be a firestorm for a short time and then this will blow over as all things do. And if Thomas continues to spit in the eye of convention, both with his unorthodox goaltending style and his political stances, good on him.
Ken Campbell is the senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com with his column. To read more from Ken and THN's other stable of experts, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.