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Let's talk about Tim Thomas

First and foremost, Tim Thomas was a goaltender on the Boston Bruins. If you like the Bruins, you liked Thomas. Anything that goes beyond his play on the ice is either bonus material (especially if it's something you like about him) or it's where your fandom ends. A fan doesn't have to like every player on their team. They only have to cheer for the players when they wear the jersey.

It's that simple, right?

Coming off the 2010-2011 season when Thomas completed the rare trifecta only done by one other goaltender in NHL history[1], a Boston Bruins fan would have believed Thomas was the second coming of their God, second to Bobby Orr.

But last season, Thomas made more noise off the ice than he did on the ice. The Bruins were granted an opportunity to a meet-and-greet with the President of the United States and visit the White House. The brief ceremony was televised and live-tweeted by media who were in attendance. Towards the end of the visit, reporters started noticing that there was one important player missing, the same one who was nothing short of a God a couple months earlier.

Perhaps Thomas should have remained silent, issued a statement through the organization with his reason for skipping out of the ceremony, and then the media would have let it all go.

Oh wait, this is Boston.

Thomas did the opposite of that. He wrote his own statement on his official Facebook page and some media circled around him like vultures any chance they could. It drew a line in the sand with fans too. Some fans turned on Thomas, saying he should have put his personal beliefs aside and attended the White House ceremony with his teammates. Others defended Thomas because we live in a free country that allows each one of us to have unique views and the right to express those opinions. Some fans believed a professional athlete shouldn't disclose his personal beliefs. Other fans said his beliefs didn't matter as long as he could stop the puck.

I am not trying to tell you how you should feel about a goaltender who helped win a Stanley Cup for your favorite team and made NHL history[2]. I am simply reminding fans that the stuff on the ice matters a hell of a lot more than the distractions off the ice.

Personally, I am going to remember the Tim Thomas that laced up his skates and stopped pucks for the Bruins; the Tim Thomas who posted back-to-back shutouts on the road in Edmonton and Vancouver in 2008; the Tim Thomas who won two Vezina trophies; the Tim Thomas that helped bring a Stanley Cup back to Boston after 39 years.

However you remember Tim Thomas is up to you.

As some fans may know, EyeCandyAir designed the mage Tim Thomas donned when he played for the Bruins. Fans may remember the "Beware of Bear" on the back. Steve Nash designed a "Fear the Bear" t-shirt fans can purchase from Outer Edge Threads with proceeds going to the Tim Thomas Foundation. It's not a shirt that you'll see worn by 9 out of 10 fans like most championship gear and if you're looking for something different, this might be it.

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[1] First goaltender to win the Stanley Cup, Conn Smythe and Vezina trophies in the same season since Bernie Parent for the 1974-75 season.

[2] Thomas set the record for most saves in a single postseason with 798 and the most saves in a Stanley Cup series with 238, and broke Frank McCool's 66-year old record of fewest goals allowed in a 7-game Stanley Cup Finals, allowing only eight goals total (for an all-time record .967 save percentage in the Stanley Cup Finals).