If and when Bruins goalie Tim Thomas sits out next season, he will be making the kind of choice that many Americans say they admire — the choice of personal commitments over professional ones. Announcing his decision on his Facebook page, he declared that “the most important thing I can do in my life is to reconnect with the three F’s. Friends, Family, and Faith.” Yet his decision comes as a significant blow to his team. The Bruins will still take a $5 million hit under the National Hockey League’s salary cap.
In big-league athletics, the demands of teamwork and sportsmanship sometimes bump up against the kind of tensions that many people have with their employers. There’s been speculation that Thomas has felt alienated ever since the Bruins organization pressed him to attend a White House event honoring the team for its Stanley Cup, in which the goalie’s performance played a huge part. Still, Thomas surely isn’t the first championship athlete to be invited to the White House by a president whose politics he opposes, and his stance bespoke a refusal to make the kind of routine compromises athletes regularly make for the glory of the team.
That was just a ceremony; Thomas’s latest decision affects how the Bruins play — and points fans to two conflicting conclusions. There’s a virtue in charting one’s own path, without regard to the consequences. But there’s no denying that Thomas has left his teammates in the lurch.