BOSTON — You can tell a lot from a goalie’s mask.
The mask Tim Thomas wears is black and white. Not black and gold.
On the front, the part seen by millions of hockey fans over the course of a season, there is no mention of the Boston Bruins.
There is a “TT” logo, one used by the goalie for his summer hockey camps. You have to go around the back of the mask to find the only reference to his NHL team, a pair of bear claws surrounding a USA shield.
In his mask, like in his professional life, Thomas put himself in front of his team.
Over the past seven seasons, the Boston Bruins have paid Thomas more than $25 million to play hockey. They owe him another $3 million next season, but Thomas has announced he is taking a year off.
According to his Facebook page, he will hang up his pads to “reconnect with the three F’s. Friends, Family, and Faith.”
There’s another F Thomas doesn’t value — fidelity.
He is leaving a team that gave him his first opportunity to play regularly in the NHL at the age of 31.
Prior to that, Thomas had spent his hockey life playing in hockey outposts like Alabama, Rhode Island, Sweden and Finland.
The Bruins’ faith in Thomas was rewarded. He has won two Vezina Trophies as the league’s best goaltender, and last year took the Conn Smythe Trophy (playoff MVP) with one of the greatest playoff goaltending performances in the history of the game.
Thomas posted a second Facebook statement on Saturday night, providing links to two stories on a pending global economic meltdown.
Apparently, Thomas wants to bunker down on his ranch in Colorado and prepare for the trouble ahead.
I’m no economist, but one way to avoid a monetary crisis is to earn another $3 million. Just saying.
Those links were quickly removed from his webpage. Thomas didn’t remove the link to his hockey camps, or another to a product he’s involved with, or yet a third to a company for which he’s a spokesman.
So, please feel free to continue to support his ventures and business interests with your hard-earned money while he helps his family through the difficult economic times ahead.
Nothing Thomas does should come as a surprise to Bruins fans.
He made news by skipping out on a trip to the White House, saying it would be a show of support for a president he disagrees with. Actually, he never said that. He posted it on Facebook. He left his teammates to answer the media’s questions about his decision.
Now Thomas says he won’t play hockey for a year. But he’s not retiring. In fact, he says he’ll stay in shape and wants to play in the next Olympics for Team USA. Which is why many observers think he will play next year, just not for the Bruins. Maybe he’s upset by the reaction to his White House decision, maybe he still harbors resentment from the team’s efforts to trade him two summers ago.
In the meantime, the Bruins have to move on without Thomas. He’s gone, but certainly not forgotten — GM Peter Chiarelli is left holding onto a $5 million salary cap hit for Thomas, even if he’s not playing.
Thomas’ rise to the top of the NHL is a great story. He was the ultimate hockey underdog. Will we remember that story? Will we remember his work in the community through the Tim Thomas Foundation?
Probably not. When we think of Thomas, we’ll probably think of these final months of his time in Boston, and reconnect with another F.
Tom Caron is the studio host for Red Sox broadcasts on the New England Sports Network. His column appears in the Press Herald on Tuesdays.