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February 14, 2013 | 10:47am ET
Thomas deserves Boston's appreciation
By Shawn Hutcheon,

BOSTON, MA -- The big news last week in New England was that the expected major snowstorm that dumped 20-30 inches on the region.

While battling the ridiculously large crowd at the supermarket, to pick up a few extra snacks, I received a phone call from my son. He asked if the news about Tim Thomas was true.

I had not heard "news" about the Bruin goaltender who was taking this season off from hockey. My son said a friend of his had texted him and saying that Boston had traded Thomas to the New York Islanders.

An hour later, I received the email from the Bruins Media Relations Department confirming that Boston had in fact dealt Thomas to the Islanders for a conditional second round draft pick in either 2014 or 2015.

Of course, once the transaction was confirmed by the Bruins, my Twitter timeline exploded. In the world we live in now, it took about three seconds for the hockey world to learn of the trade.

Soon after the news release was issued by the Bruins, GM Peter Chiarelli held a conference call with the media. He praised and thanked Thomas for his years of service and achievements while wearing the Spoked B.

"He had a very good career here, and I can't say enough of his contributions to the team," Chiarelli said. "Two Vezina trophies, a Conn Smythe trophy, the journey he took us on in the Stanley Cup was amazing. I was happy to be along for the ride."

The reaction to the goaltender's trade out of Boston was immediate and strong. The comments made by fans were black and white. When it comes to sports, there are no grey areas in Beantown.

There were those who, like Chiarelli, have expressed their appreciation for Thomas. They turned to social media to say, "Thank you."

Others took Thomas' decision to take this season off from hockey personally. "How could he do that to us," they asked.

At the time of his decision to leave the game, fans did not know the goaltender's reasons for taking his leave of absence. They only saw it as a defection from them and their team. They had one thing to say on Facebook and Twitter to number 30, "Good riddance to the selfish jerk."

This dichotomy is something that has played out more than once in Boston. Former Red Sox pitcher Roger Clemens was a traitor for eventually pitching for the hated New York Yankees. Johnny Damon was worse than a traitor because he had the audacity to win a World Series with the Red Sox and, like Clemens, would become a Yankee. Adam Vinatieri won his third Super Bowl title with the New England Patriots then became a member of the Indianapolis Colts.

After each instance, one heard the same question, "How could he do that to us?"

Thomas has joined some lofty company.

Fans, understandably, are passionate about the teams and the players they follow, but some need to understand that the players and everyone associated with the team are doing a job.

Yes, they are paid extremely well to do that job but it is still their job and they have the right to decide where they want to work. They also have the right to decide where they do not desire to work. If a player becomes a free agent and signs with a new team, he usually does so because the new team is in his hometown or close to where he comes from while others accept an offer from a new team due to a pay increase, which is something most people in our society will never turn down.

In Thomas' case, he chose to take a one-year sabbatical. Granted, he was under contract to Boston, but he proposed to come back, knowing that his contract, which has one-year remaining on it, would be carried over for an extra year. In essence, he did not "abandon" the fans, in the truest sense of the word, nor did he "abandon" the team.

After the lockout ended, to a man, Thomas' teammates expressed appreciation for his role in the Bruins' 2011 Stanley Cup championship, which is precisely what fans of the Boston Bruins should do.

Tim Thomas was not just a contributing member to Boston's first Stanley Cup in 38 years. He was the leader, on the ice, to the Cup. His play, night in and night out, was the major contributing factor to the victory and because of that all of Bruins Country should simply say, "Thank you, Tim and good luck with the New York Islanders or with any venture of which you become a part."

Boston has had more than it's share of outstanding athletes who have become bigger than life. Athletes such as Eddie Shore, Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito, Ray Bourque, Ted Williams, Pedro Martinez, Larry Bird and John Hannah. That list should also include Tim Thomas.

Ask yourself: Without him in the Bruins' crease, would they have won the Stanley Cup? Of course, that is a hypothetical question, but the answer here is "no."

Thomas helped bring the Stanley Cup back to Boston. He helped make the Bruins relevant again and he helped return Boston to it's once proud status of being a hockey town.

Thank you, Tim Thomas and good luck.

Shawn Hutcheon is the Boston Correspondent for The Fourth Period.

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