WASHINGTON - The Bruins partied on the Rogers Arena ice and in the visiting dressing room in Vancouver. They paraded through Boston with the Stanley Cup. They racked up a six-digit bar tab while celebrating their championship. They shepherded the Cup around the world. They raised the championship banner at TD Garden.
Yesterday, seven months after winning the title, the Bruins capped their 2011-12 run by celebrating last season’s achievements at the White House with President Obama.
“We had kind of turned the page on the Stanley Cup, the whole celebration, and everything else. We had gotten ourselves into the season,’’ said coach Claude Julien. “Now, to come back and be congratulated by the president, it just puts closure on that Stanley Cup season. To me, it makes it even more exciting to try and work our way back here.’’
Tim Thomas, one of two American players on last year’s roster, chose not to attend the ceremony. During his six-minute speech in the East Room, Obama mentioned Thomas for his performance in the Stanley Cup Final and how he was only the second American to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as postseason MVP.
“I believe the federal government has grown out of control, threatening the rights, liberties, and property of the people,’’ Thomas said in a statement on his Facebook page. “This is being done at the executive, legislative, and judicial level. This is in direct opposite 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.’’
Bruins president Cam Neely released a statement on the Bruins’ website.
“As an organization we were honored by President Obama’s invitation to the White House. It was a great day and a perfect way to cap our team’s achievement from last season. It was a day that none of us will soon forget. We are disappointed that Tim chose not to join us, and his views certainly do not reflect those of the Jacobs family or the Bruins organization. This will be the last public comment from the Bruins organization on this subject.’’
General manager Peter Chiarelli spoke with Thomas several times about attending the ceremony over the last few months.
Chiarelli said the event was not mandatory. Ex-Bruins Tomas Kaberle, Mark Recchi, and Shane Hnidy were in attendance, as was Steven Kampfer, the other American from last year’s roster. Kaberle’s Canadiens are off until tomorrow. Michael Ryder couldn’t attend because the Dallas Stars host the Ducks tonight.
First-year Bruins Joe Corvo and Benoit Pouliot were not present for the ceremony.
“I can require someone to attend a team event. If they don’t, I can suspend him,’’ Chiarelli said. “I’m not suspending Tim. Whatever his position is, it isn’t reflective of the Boston Bruins nor my own. But I’m not suspending him.’’
Thomas, a native of Flint, Mich., backed up Ryan Miller on Team USA’s silver-winning squad in the 2010 Olympics. Assuming good health and no significant drop off in performance, Thomas could be the No. 1 goalie for the Stars & Stripes in 2014 if the NHL allows its players to participate in the Winter Games.
“We’re like a family. We have our issues. You deal with them, move on, and try and support everyone,’’ Chiarelli said when asked if Thomas’s decision overshadowed the visit. “If it does, I hope it doesn’t. The guys seemed to enjoy it. I enjoyed it.’’
Prior to the ceremony, the Bruins toured the White House. Chiarelli marveled at dinnerware used by President Lincoln.
“It was pretty amazing,’’ Chiarelli said. “It was pretty overwhelming, actually. It was a special visit.’’
Friends, family members, other members of the organization, and guests filled the East Room. Guests included NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, Senator John Kerry, and Boston’s mayor, Thomas Menino. Kerry was sporting two black eyes. According to ABC News, he suffered a broken nose during a recent hockey game, although Milan Lucic was under suspicion.
At approximately 1:40 p.m., the Bruins filed into the East Room to kick off the ceremony. Adam McQuaid was the first person into the room. The players, wearing black suits and black ties, stood next to the Cup, then Obama entered and took the podium. Rumors were that all available Secret Service personnel were on hand, given the Bruins’ first-place standing in penalty minutes in the league.
“They had some pretty long playoff beards to show for it,’’ Obama said of the Bruins’ Cup run. “I appreciate them looking a little more clean-cut as they come here today.’’
Obama mentioned Brad Marchand, whose playoff heroics helped vault the Bruins over the Canucks.
“Brad Marchand went into the season playing on the fourth line,’’ Obama said. “But the Little Ball of Hate shrugged off the rookie jitters.
“What’s up with that nickname, man?’’ Obama added, turning to Marchand.
“I definitely wasn’t expecting a nickname like that,’’ Marchand said. “But it’s pretty cool hearing that from the president. Something I’ll always be able to brag about.’’
The Bruins presented Obama with a black Bruins jersey with the No. 11 on the back.
“The whole thing was great,’’ Julien said. “The whole day, the tour, getting an opportunity to do this. Whenever you get a chance to meet the president in person, that’s pretty unique. It was a great honor. I don’t care if you’re Canadian or American. You’re meeting one of the most important presidents in the whole world. To shake his hand was certainly an honor and a privilege at the same time.’’