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In hockey, a “Goalie Controversy” usually refers to differing opinions of who should be a starter. This week it took on new meaning when the Stanley Cup-winning Bruins visited President Obama at the White House, and starting goaltender Tim Thomas - the only American player on the Bruins with his name on the trophy - wasn’t there with them.
He took to Facebook to explain why:
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.
He's not the first athlete to publicly diss Obama and an invitation to the White House, but his decision did not go over well with many Bostonions, with the teams’ front office or with the media. Dave Hodge, a veteran commentator on ESPN’s Canadian sister network, tweeted an observation that “Tim Thomas has three children named Kiley, Kelsey and Keegan,” implying the goaltender supported the KKK.
The Boston Globe ran a story that quoted an anonymous team official calling Thomas “[Expletive] selfish [expletive].”
And now there are reports that Thomas, who twice won the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goaltender, will probably get traded.
We are die-hard sports fans in Boston and we love and worship our stars more than other fans could ever conceive. However, that doesn't mean we wish to hear their opinions off the playing field. Boston is a true-blue Liberal city and we're willing to suffer through a good 'ol boy GOP member on our teams as long they stay off their high horse about it. Curt Schilling of the Red Sox is a perfect example of that. Thomas - in feeling the need to turn what should have been a proud moment in hockey and making it an ugly political debate - made a bad error in judgement.
Even if he feels strongly about Obama's policies, he should have attended the meeting in order to support his team and the tradition of American hockey. When discussing this with my sister she had a good point: during the Bush presidency countless Canadians had to come down and shake George W.'s hand and take pictures with him despite the fact that the far-more liberal Canucks (who's "conservative" party is more like a "libertarian" at best) probably hated Bush just as much as the rest of their country did. Tim Thomas would be wise to remember that - in the end - his Canadian and eastern European counterparts actually wound up looking like better Americans than Thomas that day.
Now, I should acknowledge that not everyone agrees with me on this. HeadCount Executive Director Andy Bernstein, with whom I share a love of hockey, sent me this response when I submitted the first draft of this blog.
I would argue that what he did was distinctly and proudly American, and stands exactly with the values of HeadCount... he made his voice heard. He used the bully pulpit he has to make a statement, just like we encourage musicians to do. You make the point that Canadian players "had" to meet G. W. Bush. But they didn't. That's the whole point. It's a free country. And this was an opportunity for him to exercise his right to free speech.
My response was that, OK they didn't have to - they did it out of respect. I thought what he did was disrespectful to his team and to the President. He had a right to think and say whatever he wants, but now that whole experience is going to be tarnished for the rest of the team. To me it shows a more dismal future for any bipartisanship in the future.
Andy had more to say on that:
But you can make that argument any time someone speaks out when everyone else is silent. In fact, people do. Any time someone takes a strong stand in a way that gets noticed, someone publicly denounces them for it. Tim Thomas, clearly believes that there is an oppressive force hurting America, and he had an opportunity to call attention to that. How can we argue that "respect" should trump someone's right and desire to promote change they believe in?
Since Andy is ostensibly in charge of this blog, I guess I should give him the last word. But just remember this Tim Thomas: backup Tuuka Rask has a better Goals Against Average than you this season. You made the choice to diss the team and the President. Boston and the Bruins may just diss you back.