OTTAWA — Try as he might, Boston Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas can't get the focus back on hockey.
After the NHL All-Star Game Fantasy Draft on Thursday, Thomas fielded questions about declining to take part in the Bruins' celebratory visit to the White House last Monday. He declined further comment beyond his Facebook statement on the matter, thanking "teammates, fans and friends" for their support.
On Friday, during NHL All-Star Game Media Day, Thomas again was asked about the aftermath of his decision to put personal beliefs ahead of his team's visit with the President.
The Conn Smythe winner made it clear — he's not a fan of the media's coverage of the controversy.
Q. Do you expect it to go away?
THOMAS: "Ah … I think it should. I think it should. Why? Because it's all media driven right now. It has been from the start."
"And everything I said and did was as an individual, not as a representative of the Boston Bruins. All it has to do is with me, but it's separate from hockey. That's my personal life. Those are my personal views. Those are my personal beliefs. It has nothing to do with hockey. It has nothing to do with this All-Star Game. And it has nothing to do with the Boston Bruins.
[His handler says it's the last two questions for Thomas]
Q. Would your teammates say you're a great team guy but that you're being portrayed a different way?
THOMAS: "Yeah, but I don't think I should address stuff out of thin air. I would really appreciate it if people would leave my teammates and my family out of it."
Q. Is this going to be a fun weekend?
THOMAS: "Yes, I am actually looking forward to it. And I'm looking forward to getting back on the ice because that's what I do. And that's what I love. And so I'm looking forward to it and I'm still gonna have a lot of fun with it."
Was the line about family in reference to Dave Hodge?
Thomas also appeared on NHL Network, which apparently hadn't heard about that whole matter with the White House. Or Thomas being a Free Citizen. Or really anything beyond strategy for an exhibition game.
For those scoring at home, Thomas hopes to be the winning goalie for the fourth All-Star Game in a row; he expects to play the third period; and he wouldn't snub the All-Star Game to get some extra rest.
"I don't think it'll happen to me because I had this type of honor so late in my career," he said.
In fairness, there's probably a lot Tim Thomas didn't think would happen to him that's happening now …
As I said on the radio show today: Thomas is probably going to stop giving interviews soon. Then he'll do the smart thing, which is to explain his views and this ordeal to some favorable media outlet. He'll talk about the pain his family's gone through. Maybe he'll express some regret. And then, perhaps, everyone moves on.
Asking fans and media to do so less than a week after his decision is asking the improbable — especially at an event like the All-Star Game where coverage is so concentrated. Dodging those questions, after putting his stones on the line for his beliefs, is disappointing and distracting.
Why is the media asking Thomas's teammates these questions? Because Thomas gave them the story. It's the risk he took.