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February 14, 2012 | 1:39pm ET
Tim Thomas Controversy
By Shawn Hutcheon, Boston Correspondent
TheFourthPeriod.com

BOSTON, MA -- On June 18, 2011, the night the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup, there was no bigger superstar in Boston than Conn Smythe Trophy winner, Tim Thomas.

On Jan. 23, 2012, the luster had dimmed a bit from Thomas' shining star. On that day in January, the goaltender chose to remain in the team's hotel instead of accompanying his teammates to the White House to enjoy being feted by U.S. President Barack Obama for winning the National Hockey League championship.

Thomas, a native of Flint, Michigan explained his reasons for his actions on his Facebook account.

"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."

The netminder received criticism from many fans and media members from around the globe but he received strong support from his fans in Beantown, illustrated by the standing ovation he received when he stepped on the ice for the team's next home game against the New York Rangers on Jan. 21.

It was believed the issue had run its course and everyone began concentrating on hockey. Unfortunately, the Bruins went into a mid-season slide going 9-7-2 between Jan. 1, 2012 - Feb. 7, 2012. The club has won just twice and lost four since Jan. 23. It remains a contender for first place in the NHL' Eastern Conference but management, players and fans alike are frustrated by the team's recent struggles. Many looked to Thomas as the reason for the skid. They claimed he had become selfish and had stopped being a team player.

Thomas brought more attention to himself on February 8th when he turned to Facebook again; posting his political views on pending U.S. legislation concerning contraception which was opposed by the Catholic church. He quoted German anti-Nazi theologian Martin Niemoller.

"In Germany they came first for the Communist, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up."

Thomas stated that he, "...stands with Catholics in the fight for Religious Freedom."

The next day after the squad's practice, media members gathered around the 37-year-old armed with questions about his political views and how his speaking out effects the team on the whole. Thomas refused to answer the inquiries saying his personal opinions had nothing to do with hockey nor his employers. Some members of the press continued to ask about the subject only to hear the same response from the puck stopper. Thomas said he was done talking about the issue and would end the interview if anyone continued to ask about it. Of course, one journalist had to ask another question on the topic which resulted in Thomas ending the question and answer period.

The very next day, Jan. 10, 2012 the goaltender quoted the late U.S. President Ronald Reagan on Facebook, which showed his support for the former Presidents views on smaller government.

Radio talk shows phone banks lit up with callers wanting to voice their support or criticism of their Stanley Cup hero. The criticism ranged from most people saying Thomas should focus on stopping pucks and winning hockey games and keep his political views to himself because, as the Michigander said, this does not have anything to do with hockey or his team. They do not deny him his right to have opinions nor voicing them but they state that there is a time and place for sharing them. They feel talking about them during the hockey season is not the time for it. They also feel that if Thomas does not want to draw attention to himself, he should not put them on a public social media website. The ultimate frustration with this group lies in the opinion that Thomas is negatively affecting his team and distracting his fellow players with his issues.

Bruins center Patrice Bergeron stated this was not the case when he told radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub, "I don't think anyone on the team supports his opinion...but he's always been a great teammate and we're all behind him but we're not necessarily behind his beliefs all the time...but that doesn't mean it creates any area of distraction or disruption in the team because honestly it doesn't... in the room it's not even mentioned."

Those that support Thomas say this should not be an issue. They agree with his detractors in that he has the right to have his say. The difference between the two comes when his supporters blame the media for putting the goaltender in a negative light. They see the media as doing all it can to vilify the netminder.

Thomas' Facebook account has over 14,000 “likes” and a majority of comments support him. Comments range from saying they agree with him to asking him to run for U.S. President.

Clearly, this issue has become more of a public one and not a team one. The debate does not look as if it will calm down unless/until the Bruins go on another long undefeated streak. If the club can do that, L'Affair Thomas will become a distant memory in a hurry, however if that does not happen, fans will begin looking for a scapegoat and Tim Thomas may have already made himself out to be just that.

Shawn Hutcheon is the Boston Correspondent for TheFourthPeriod.com.

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