Thursday, January 26, 2012


Decisions! Decisions!

Ah, the life of the Commissioner! Hockey’s head honcho, Gary Bettman, had just packed his bags and was headed for the airport. He needed to be in Ottawa, Canada’s capital, for the All Star Break.
It had been a relatively fine season, with the usual bits of nonsense here and there. The league had chosen well in placing Brendan Shanahan in charge of the administration of justice for those who go above and beyond the rules of the game.
Ratings are fine, fans are filling the rinks, even in Florida. Several teams are experiencing results which were not expected at the beginning of the season. And the big bad Bruins, having overcome the euphoria of their Cup win last year, finally got on track in November and are headed to the playoffs again.
One of the perks that goes with winning the Stanley Cup is that your team gets invited to the White House, to meet the president, to get the old “jolly good show, boys” pat on the back. He gets a sweater with his name on it. The winners get to enjoy crumpets and tea.
Which leads to Mr. Bettman’s latest migraine. One of the Bruins, goalie Tim Thomas, decided not to attend the festivities at the White House. He was not ill, everyone in his family is fine, to the best of my knowledge. He simply decided to boycott the event because he does not support the president and his policies. He is one of two Americans on the team. All the other players are hockey aliens in the United States.
In his words, “I believe the Federal government has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties, and Property of the People. This is being done at the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial level. This is in direct opposition to the Constitution and 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”
All of the other Bruins’ players and management were in attendance with the session with President Barack Obama. Smiles and chuckles and cute little conversational jabs all around. The decision that Thomas made certainly did not sit well with team management.

Cam Neely, now Bruins’ team president and a recent inductee into the Hockey Hall of Fame, was clearly miffed. “He chose not to join us. All the guys came except for Tim. It’s his decision and his choice.”
Bruins’ General manager Peter Chiarelli said that he could have suspended Thomas for his actions. “But I’m not going to suspend Tim. Whatever his position is isn’t representative of the Boston Bruins or my own. But I’m not going to suspend him.” Do you think, perchance, it may have crossed Chiarelli’s mind?
Thomas has been quite clear in his political leanings. His position, or at least their interpretation of his position, has been lauded by the right-wing pundits. A website founded by conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart entitled Big Government, celebrated Thomas as a “true Tea Party patriot”.
Another blogger on the Yahoo! Sports site, supported Thomas’s decision. “Good on Thomas,” writes Greg Wyshynski, who calls himself “Puck Daddy”. “Good on Thomas to make a political statement of his own.”
To add a little more fuel to the fire, Washington’s Alex Ovechkin has decide to forego the event, in a huff because he has been suspended for three games for an illegal hit. Wrong choice. He could pull a Jagr and take all of his marbles back to play in Russia some day. He would be missed, not much, and not for long.
I am certain that most of the All Stars will get a chance to meet Canadian Prime Minister Harper while in the coldest capital in North America, once he returns from Switzerland. Likely not Tim Thomas.
His loss, from start to finish. Tarnishing a spectacular season of triumph.
Enjoy the week, Mr. Bettman.
A footnote:
P. K. Subban paid the price for taking a foolish penalty in the Habs 7-2 shellacking of the Red Wings last night. He sat the second period. His teammate, Erik Cole, referred to Subban in a post-game interview as “selfish”. Not a happy camp right now in Montreal.

James Hurst

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