Tim Thomas will be back in Boston Thursday night when the Bruins play host to the Florida Panthers.
Only two players in the history of the Boston Bruins have won the Conn Smythe Trophy, given to the MVP of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Bobby Orr was the first. Thomas is the second.
Although he's injured and won't be playing, he should be accorded some sort of honor by the team he left, at least based on what he did for Boston in 2011. [Even Mike Napoli got a nice ride on the video-message board at center ice Tuesday night.] It's incomprehensible that there will be some in attendance at TD Garden who will boo or jeer Thomas if and/or when he's formally introduced or honored by the Bruins.
But there will be boos if history is any indication.
And none of those athletes ever called themselves a "Free Citizen" on Facebook while warning that the "federal government has grown out of control" or paraphrased Martin NiemĂŻller's famous quote about the Holocaust while voicing his opposition to policies that require religious groups to provide free birth control to their employees.
We have a simple rule here: "We don't do politics."
We are not going to start now.
Despite what some on either side of the aisle might want to think, no one told me to say that.
The benevolent John W. Henry, who has become the living embodiment of both Joseph Pulitzer and Branch Rickey, hasn't gotten around to issuing any direct orders for this space as owner of The Parent Company of This Blog.
He's got much more important things scheduled on his iPad.
Like anything else.
If/when he decides to pull the plug on this space, which should come about four seconds after he reads anything we wrote about the Red Sox in 2011 or '12, we'll let you know on Twitter at @RealOBF.
Sports and politics don't mix well. Sports unite us. About 2 million people swarmed the streets of Boston and banks of the Charles River on Saturday to show their appreciation for what the company baseball did this season.
A city, state, region and [Red Sox] nation was from many, one.
"E pluribus Red Sox."
People from diverse religious faiths, political perspectives, sexual orientations, social classes, races, ethnic backgrounds and family lineage can usually find quick common ground if they're both Red Sox fans and the subject is "The Autumnal Awesomeness of Jon Lester."
Politics divide us. That's not necessarily a bad thing, it's just the nature of the business. Grab 10 people in that crowd on Saturday and ask them their thoughts of the political issues of the day and you're likely to get 10 different answers.
The OBF Blog's lone exception to our self-imposed "no-politics rule" applies when athletes try to be political or politicians try to be perceived as "regular" people by talking sports. Then, we fire away without mercy, no matter the politician, athlete or party affiliation. Just on general principle.
We live in a representative republic which is founded in the principles of democracy. We are guaranteed our right of free speech, especially when it comes to politics [and offering your take on sports], whether you're a fan or athlete. But there's no right that forces anyone to listen.
This brings us to TD Garden on Thursday night. Thomas, a two-time Vezina Trophy winner, is on injured reserve. He hasn't played since Oct. 23 but will travel with the Panthers.
If/when he is introduced, or featured on the video-message board, and he should be, he is deserving of a standing ovation and adoration, if not wild adulation, for his indispensable contribution to the 2011 Bruins and Boston's first Stanley Cup since the Nixon Administration.
No Thomas, no Cup in 2011. Period.
Thomas ticked off a sizable number of Bruins fans, media members and people across the political spectrum when he decided not to attend the Bruins' ceremony at the White House. He was excoriated because what he did was considered detrimental to the team. Others didn't like what he did because it was considered disrespectful to the office of the presidency, or just plain rude.
Others supported Thomas for what he did, both because of political reasons and the fact that he was a man of principle, even if you didn't agree with his principal principles.
His snub split me right down the middle. He deserved praise for sticking to his beliefs but I didn't understand why he wouldn't go just because it is the White House and those were his teammates.
The most disturbing part of his no-show was the way it was reported across the print, broadcast and digital spectrum. Thomas was not the first prominent Boston ring-earning sports personality to snub the president and a White House ceremony due to his political views. Theo Epstein, who campaigned for John Kerry in 2004, sat in the White House audience in 2005 but avoided the stage and President Bush. Theo took a pass on attending the 2008 ceremony citing "family reasons." [One of the "Fs"]. He was never criticized by any major voice in this city's media market, partly because Manny Ramirez was also no-show on the same day in 2008.
Thomas was not afforded the same journalistic fairness, however. His on-going political commentary on Facebook and elsewhere continued to enrage those with whom he disagreed and inspire those with whom he found common ground.
All of that was a side-show, really, blown grossly out of proportion on all sides.
The narrative was spun, by State Run Media and others, that somehow Thomas was dividing the team and causing angst and rancor in the locker room because Player A had to take 10 or 15 seconds out of his 24-hour-day to answer a question about something Thomas had said. Journalists [real or pretend] tend to overstate their own importance. Most players treat their brief daily media obligations as just that, an unpleasant but necessary part of the job, much like stretching, time in the whirlpool or getting their ankles taped.
The Bruins exited quickly from the 2011-12 postseason. Thomas' play against Washington were much more relevant in that seven-game loss than his views about Washington. Thomas subsequently bailed on the team and checked into his Colorado bunker, no doubt loading up on gold and food insurance for the coming apocalypse and re-election of President Obama.
His exit infuriated the Bruins and their apologists because he had the nerve to both possess and exert leverage over ownership. Thomas didn't need the Bruins' contract and he wanted to focus on the "three Fs." He no longer wanted to play [at least in Boston], was in a position to walk and did so. That make him the ultimate villain in the eyes of the Bruins.
When you're used to being in complete control, like management usually is in these cases, having a player with another option and having that player exercise that option simply isn't done nor it is considered acceptable.
Cam Neely and Peter Chiarelli had a fourth "F" for Thomas, which would probably get the plug pulled on this column if I printed it here.
To say Thomas "screwed over" the Bruins by leaving is to forget the fact that his departure gave Tuukka Rask the opportunity to become the full-time goalie for the
2012-13 season many believed he could be. Rask didn't lead the Bruins to a Stanley Cup championship like Thomas did in 2011, but he proved himself to be Cup-capable and gives the Bruins stability in net until the end of this decade.
And that same ownership that sneered at Thomas leaving the Bruins in the lurch had no trouble at all locking out all its players three months after Thomas' self-imposed exile in 2012. Thomas just beat them to the punch.
You see it's was bad for Thomas to quit on his team but a necessary step for his team and every other NHL franchise to exile their rosters for 119 days and leave fans holding their sticks until the middle of January.
You might not like the politics of Tim Thomas, or you may agree with him 100 percent of the time. That's for Facebook or Fox News.
The issue on the ballot Thursday night will be hockey. Bolshevik or Birther? On the ice and in uniform, it matters not.
And when it comes to recognizing the critical role he played in helping the Bruins win that coveted Cup in 2011, Thomas should win Boston's applause in a landslide.
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