Ex-Bruins goalie Tim Thomas surprised many when he was in Washington on Wednesday night for the ceremonial puck drop prior to the Bruins matchup with the Capitals. On Thursday, Thomas was inducted into the US Hockey Hall of Fame in Washington. These marked his first public appearances since the 2011 Stanley Cup Champion and Conn Smythe winner walked away from the game in 2014.
Thomas was emotional when he spoke with the media on Thursday. He revealed a dark stretch of his life that started with a concussion in his final NHL season. “I couldn’t communicate with anybody for a few years,” Thomas, fighting back tears, told reporters. “I didn’t call my dad, I didn’t talk to anybody. There was a time period, yeah, where I hated the game, so to speak. I didn’t sit there and [say] ‘I hate it.’ My rebound effect was like, this wasn’t worth it.”
Thomas admitted his life changed during the 2013-14 season. He split that campaign with the Florida Panthers and Dallas Stars, playing in 48 games. It was in December of that season where Thomas sustained a concussion. “I woke up the next morning after it and I couldn’t decide what I wanted to eat, where I wanted to go,” Thomas began. “I couldn’t plan a schedule, I survived following the team schedule the rest of the year and just made it through that season.”
Thomas retired after playing in the World Championships that spring for Team USA. “On the ice, I was able to be like 97 percent maybe, 95 percent of what I was before. But off the ice, like I said, I still can’t choose. I’m so much better, but I wake up everyday and basically I have to reorder everything in my mind for the first couple hours of the day and then make a list and try to make some choices to get some stuff done.”
Although Thomas opened up, it wasn’t his goal to go to Washington and tell this story. In fact, he says, he didn’t even want to talk about these issues. “I didn’t want to talk about this,” Thomas admitted. “I didn’t want to talk, I didn’t want to tell the world this stuff. Not till I felt ready, and I didn’t feel ready yet. But here I am.”
Thomas, who currently lives in Idaho with his family, “couldn’t follow the game anymore” upon his retirement. “My brain wasn’t functioning well enough to be able to keep up with the game, so I sat out in the woods for a few years,” Thomas said.
Although he went years without the game he once loved, Thomas’ return went better than expected on Wednesday night. “Surprisingly comfortable,” was his response when asked what it was like to be back in the arena on Wednesday. Thomas admitted that he also “had a blast” when he got the chance to visit with the trainers and his former teammates. It was his first time seeing the staff and guys like David Krejci, Zdeno Chara, Tuukka Rask, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand since he walked away from the game.