Making rare public comments on Wednesday, former Bruins star Tim Thomas said he has no plans to become involved again with the NHL.
“I just don’t see it,” said the ex-netminder, speaking on a conference call with other members of the US Hockey Hall of Fame’s class of 2019. “I don’t know, but I would highly doubt it.”
Thomas, absent from the spotlight since he last played in 2014, is part of a five-person class including NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, ex-Boston College Eagle Brian Gionta, amateur coach Neal Henderson, and women’s standout Krissy Wendell. The induction ceremony is Dec. 12 in Washington, one day after the Bruins play the Capitals in that city.
Thomas, who made headlines when he skipped the Bruins’ 2012 trip to the White House under protest, will be celebrated for a remarkable career, which saw him spend nearly a decade in Europe and the minors before becoming a four-time All-Star, two-time Vezina Trophy winner, and, at age 37, the oldest winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy when the Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011.
“Everybody probably knows nowadays I don’t have all that much to say, at least publicly,” Thomas said. “In this case though, I’m honored to be receiving this recognition.”
Thomas, 45, has been living privately post-career in an undisclosed location. He said he is estranged from the game. “My focus and mind is on learning about other stuff. I learned so much about hockey and that area,” he said. “I feel like I’ve learned as much as I needed to learn about it.”
After the 2011-12 season, his seventh as an NHL full-timer, he took a year off to focus on “family, friends, and faith,” as he wrote in a post on his since-deleted Facebook page. He last played in 2013-14, splitting 48 games between Florida and Dallas.
That season, Thomas revealed in 2017, he suffered a concussion that “affected me greatly.” He sought treatment for the ailment in Colorado Springs, making those comments in a promotional video for a physical therapy treatment center there.
“From a lifetime of sports and a high-level career in hockey, I accumulated a lot of brain damage,” Thomas said in the YouTube clip, noting the wear came from his 16 years in pro hockey and a “lifetime playing sports: football, baseball, hockey, any neighborhood game you can imagine.
“I didn’t understand it until it finally caught up to me a couple years ago.”
Thomas alluded to those issues when asked Wednesday about an online rumor that he would appear at TD Garden before Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, and whether he envisioned himself getting involved with the Bruins again.
“That’s a tough one,” he said. “With the state of my nervous system since I retired, I wouldn’t be able to hardly handle the energy of the crowd in Boston. So it isn’t as simple as it may seem. Having said that, you never know what the future may hold. I’m just taking life as it goes.”
Thomas, who revealed that his daughter recently secured an internship with the Bruins, said he started watching hockey again last postseason “because Boston was doing so well.” His thoughts, however, are far from stopping pucks.
“I have other interests,” he said. “I have a totally other focus. I live in a totally different world than the hockey world that I lived in before. I live a long ways away from Boston, and it’s not that fun for me to travel anymore.
“It isn’t anything to do with the Boston Bruins or the Boston fans, especially. My goodness, they loved the crap out of me when I was there, to the point where it was hard to handle.”
When asked about the most rewarding part of his post-NHL life, Thomas paused, as he typically did before speaking in front of his locker stall.
“My whole life is rewarding,” he said. “My time with the Boston Bruins was very rewarding. My time with USA Hockey was very rewarding. I’ve decided to keep what I’ve been doing with my life and learning to myself, at this point for sure, and probably forever.
“Obviously family, if you want to go there . . . family is the most rewarding thing in the long run, right? They’re the ones who are there when you cut through all the smoke.”