by pcoffey on 01/25/12 at 01:58 PM ET
Look, goalies always have been a tad “different, so is it shocking that Tim Thomas opted not to visit the White House the other day with the Boston Bruins? No. And truth be told I could really care less if Thomas went or not. I’m fairly certain the rest of the Bruins players, coaches and staff enjoyed what had to be a special day. Regardless if you’re a Democrat, Republican, independent or whatever, it must be pretty cool to get a special tour of the White House and meet the President.
And I’m also pretty sure President Barack Obama didn’t give a tinker’s cuss if Tim Thomas was there or not. He has far bigger fish to fry than to worry about a recalcitrant goaltender.
But what happened to the concept of taking one for the team? And what of civility in general?
Thanks to freedom of speech in the United States, an awful lot of us have been able to make livings in journalism and everyone can make his or her opinion known. So I’m all for Thomas speaking his mind. And his thoughts about the government are not without merit or discussion. Here is his Facebook statement.
“I believe the Federal government has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties, and Property of the People.
This is being done at the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial level. This is in direct opposition to the Constitution and the Founding Fathers vision for the Federal government.
Because I believe this, today I exercised my right as a Free Citizen, and did not visit the White House. This was not about politics or party, as in my opinion both parties are responsible for the situation we are in as a country. This was about a choice I had to make as an INDIVIDUAL.
This is the only public statement I will be making on this topic. TT”
There is no gag order on Tim Thomas, except his self-imposed one. But sorry Tim, by creating a tempest in a teapot by skipping the visit, posting your reasons on Facebook, and then declining all comment on the situation you created is ill-advised at best and disingenuous at worst. If you have the courage of your convictions, that’s great. If you have strong opinions, equally great. Folks generally don’t like to hear about religion (see Tim Tebow) or politics (now see Tim Thomas) in sports, but that shouldn’t muzzle anyone either.
Still, Thomas has been around the world of microphones and newspaper notebooks long enough to know that taking a stand like he did wasn’t going to just go away. He already has explained his political feelings, be it Tea Party, Garden Party or Birthday Party, so how about explaining why his responsibilities to his teammates took a back seat to shining the spotlight on himself? He had to know that was the likely outcome.
Being a part of a team means you give up a bit of yourself for the betterment of the group. Now keep in mind that probably every player on the Bruins at one point in his playing career was the best guy on the ice, be it squirts, bantams, juniors, etc. But guys sacrifice the ego that comes with being a top athlete to be part of a team. If that means playing five minutes in a game, so be it. So, would it really have been that distasteful to take the tour and pose for a photo? Heck, he could have told the President his views in person!
The Bruins have been pretty supportive of Thomas in the wake of his decision, so he is fortunate there and it sounds like everyone enjoyed the opportunity to celebrate the Stanley Cup championship one more time.
“It is what it is,” Bruins winger Milan Lucic told the Boston Globe. “I don’t think it really matters what I think about it. I still enjoyed the day and took part in the opportunity. I know the other guys that were there had a lot of fun. It’s something that I, personally, will remember for the rest of my life.”
As with everything else, this too will blow over. The Bruins will focus on repeating as Stanley Cup champs and Thomas will play a big role in that effort. Maybe it’s just a case of a goalie being different, but you can’t help but think it also could be a case of a player being selfish and creating a situation that could easily have been avoided.
Double standard?—Where’s the “other” suspension? The one Alex Ovechkin figured to get for skipping the All-Star Game. Didn’t Nick Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk in essence earn one-game suspensions for skipping the All-Star Game a while back? How come Ovechkin gets to skate by not skating this time?
I’m not blaming Ovechkin, who was suspended for three games for a hit on Pittsburgh’s Zbynek Michalek the other night? You can see where he isn’t of a mind to do the NHL a favor by appearing in the all-star festivities on the heels of a suspension he doesn’t think he deserves.
“My heart is not there. I got suspended, so why (do) I have to go there?” he told reporters Tuesday. “I love the (All-Star) game. It’s a great event. I love to be there.”
“I feel I’m not deserving to be there right now,” Ovechkin said. “If I’m suspended, I have to be suspended.”
Ovechkin has made the All-Star Game and the skills competition fun. He isn’t above doing goofy things and trying wild passes and shots in a format that cries out for more fun stuff. He is one of the faces that sells the NHL brand and to not have him there makes the whole exercise all the more trivial.
And, he’s not suspended for the All-Star Game. So, in essence, he got his revenge for the suspension by hurting the league at its annual gathering of sponsors and partners. But back to the original point. If Lidstrom and Datsyuk were suspended for skipping the All-Star Game, how come Ovechkin isn’t? So much for precedent and consistency, eh?
Sounds like the NHL figured this was a battle not worth fighting. Ovechkin does an awful lot to sell the sport, so tacking on a suspension for skipping out on Ottawa may well be penny wise, but pound foolish.
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly had this to say in a statement released to the media: “In light of yesterday’s suspension, we informed the Capitals that, while Alex Ovechkin was still welcome to participate in this weekend’s All Star festivities in Ottawa, we would not be insisting that he do so. We now understand that Alex has decided to withdraw from this weekend’s events. Given the circumstances involved, we understand Mr. Ovechkin’s decision in this regard and have no intention of pursuing this matter further.”
Sounds like a case of picking your battles.
Let’s be clear, Ovechkin should not be above discipline because he is a superstar. And he needs to remember that as a repeat offender he shouldn’t do the crime if he can’t do the time. But in this case, since no penalty was initially called for the hit, Ovechkin isn’t happy with the suspension decision, so the NHL can lump it with his all-star decision.
“I don’t believe I deserve to get a three-game suspension for the hit that I did,” Ovechkin told reporters. “I was disappointed, actually. ... All my career it’s going to be like that. My game is (to) play physical. My game is (to) play hard. I don’t think it was a bad hit, dirty hit.”
And he is making his point about it quite emphatically.
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About Iced Coffey
Phil Coffey has covered the NHL since 1981, most recently as the Senior Editorial Director of NHL.com. He spent over 11 years there.