Tim Thomas

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Ex-Bruins goalie Tim Thomas breaks years-long silence

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Retired NHL goaltender Tim Thomas broke a years-long public silence Wednesday after being named as part of the United States Hockey Hall of Fame’s class of 2019.

The mercurial Thomas, who led the Boston Bruins to the Stanley Cup in 2011 and made headlines for refusing to visit then-President Barack Obama at the White House, has avoided the spotlight since walking away from hockey in 2014. Thomas was short on details about what he has been up to since his playing days ended but dropped some hints about how far he has separated himself from his past life.

”Everybody probably knows nowadays I don’t actually have all that much to say, at least publicly,” Thomas said on a conference call with reporters. ”Obviously 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.”

Thomas, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, longtime NHL forward Brian Gionta, Washington youth hockey staple Neal Henderson and U.S women’s star Krissy Wendell will be inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame at a ceremony in the nation’s capital Dec. 12.

Thomas eight years ago became the oldest player to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP and is a Boston sports hero for his role in the Bruins’ first championship since 1972. He said last season’s playoffs were the first he had watched since retiring because the Bruins were doing so well. He brushed off the idea of returning to his old home arena.

”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,” Thomas said. ”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 revealed that his daughter this week landed an internship with the Bruins and emphasized she earned it. Asked about that being a gateway to getting him back involved in the game, the 45-year-old said he highly doubts that will happen.

”I just don’t see it,” Thomas said. ”I have other interests. 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.”

A two-time Vezina Trophy winner as the league’s top goalie, Thomas sounds comfortable remaining at a distance from hockey.

”I don’t personally have any relationship with the game,” he said. ”My focus and mind is on learning about other stuff. I learned so much about hockey and that area. I feel like I’ve learned as much as I needed to learn about it. My focus is on learning about other stuff.”

Bettman, inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto last year, oversaw the growth of the NHL from 24 to 31 teams with a 32nd coming in 2021. The New York native spearheaded much of the expansion of hockey into so-called nontraditional U.S. markets.

Gionta put up 595 points in 16 NHL seasons and won the Cup with New Jersey in 2003. He represented the U.S. in the 2006 and 2018 Olympics.

Henderson in 1978 co-founded the Fort Dupont Ice Hockey Club, the oldest minority hockey club in North America, and was part of the NHL’s launch of its ”Hockey is for Everyone” initiative.

Wendell won two NCAA titles at Minnesota and ranks fourth all-time with 2.35 points a game. She put up 247 points in 147 international games, was the MVP of the 2005 world championships when the U.S. won gold for the first time and served as captain at the 2006 Olympics.

Bettman, Thomas among U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame inductees

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman headlines the 2019 class of the United States Hockey Hall of Fame.

Bettman, former Boston Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas, longtime NHL forward Brian Gionta, Washington youth hockey staple Neal Henderson and U.S women’s star Krissy Wendell will be inducted at a ceremony Dec. 12. Bettman was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto last year.

Thomas in 2011 became the second American and the oldest player to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in 2011 when he led the Bruins to the Stanley Cup. He made headlines for skipping the trip to see then-President Barack Obama in the White House and has been virtually invisible since walking away from hockey in 2014.

Gionta put up 595 points in 16 NHL seasons and won the Cup with New Jersey in 2003. He represented the U.S. in the 2006 and 2018 Olympics.

Henderson in 1978 co-founded the Fort Dupont Ice Hockey Club, the oldest minority hockey club in North America, and was part of the NHL’s launch of its “Hockey is for Everyone” initiative.

Wendell won two NCAA titles at Minnesota and ranks fourth all-time with 2.35 points a game. She put up 247 points in 147 international games, was the MVP of the 2005 world championships when the U.S. won gold for the first time and served as captain at the 2006 Olympics.

Julien downplays Boychuk’s return to Boston

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New York Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk was the casualty of the Boston Bruins cap crunch earlier this month.

GM Peter Chiarelli dealt Boychuk, a pending unrestricted free agent, to the Islanders for a trio of draft picks on Oct. 4.

Tonight, Boychuk returns to the TD Garden for the first time as a member of the opposition.

“It’ll be awkward. I’ve played with him for a while, and some guys have played with him for five plus years,” Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg told CSNNE.com’s Joe Haggerty. “It’s definitely going to be a bit of a different feeling when guys have to fore-check him, and have to hit him. Or when I stand in front of the net and he shoots.

“It’ll be different, but in the end it’s about winning a hockey game. We’re focusing on that. It’s funny and it’s awkward. If you have to chip a puck behind him and them hit him, that’s when it feels a little bit weird or different.”

Boychuk, 30, spent six seasons with the Bruins capturing the Stanley Cup in 2011.

As Haggerty points out, it’s not the first time the Bruins are welcoming a high-profile former teammate. Phil Kessel, Tyler Seguin and Tim Thomas have all returned to Boston as a member of the opposition.

As a result, coach Claude Julien was downplaying the significance.

“This is a business, guys,” said Julien. “Once the puck is dropped you’ve got to fight for your team, and fight your own battles. You can be friends afterward, and chitchat before and after. But during the game itself, if you don’t do it then he will.

“I don’t see an issue there. All of the guys liked him, but there are plenty of guys we’ve liked that are playing on other teams. When the puck is dropped then the game is on.”

Boychuk originally a second-round draft pick of the Colorado Avalanche (61st overall 2002) appeared in 317 games with the Bruins scoring 19 goals and 75 points to go along with 198 penalty minutes.

LaRose approaches Canes about possible NHL return

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After leaving the Carolina Hurricanes on strange terms and sitting out the 2013-14 season entirely, Chad LaRose approached his former team about a possible return to hockey, the Raleigh News & Observer reports.

Hurricanes GM Ron Francis said he hopes to meet with the 32-year-old soon to discuss options, including a possible tryout.

“I’d like to talk to him,” Francis said. “He took a year off and obviously he’d need to earn his way back. There are some options. We could get him to camp on a tryout. He could start the season in Charlotte (AHL), show that he could still do it.”

At LaRose’s age, it’s not out of the realm of possibility to imagine that he could stick as a bottom-six forward. While his last season with Carolina was pretty hedious (just four points in 35 games played), he’s a two-time 19-goal scorer who enjoyed five-straight seasons with at least 11 goals and hovered around the 30-point mark for four straight years. Those aren’t eye-popping numbers, but he’s at least shown enough ability to potentially land back on an NHL roster.

The Hurricanes have also been open-minded about training camp auditions in the past.

Jeff O’Neill gave it a shot with the Hurricanes after sitting out a season at the same age of 32. While that didn’t work out, Radek Dvorak managed to make the team after impressing enough during a PTO prior to the 2013-14 season.

Other players have returned after absences as well; while Tim Thomas had an injury-plagued, up-and-down season, he did show flashes of his former brilliance last year despite a well-publicized hiatus.

So, really, the odds aren’t on LaRose’s side, but he’s probably used to that as a small-ish, undrafted free agent.

Flyers goalie Zepp looks to Thomas, Fasth as inspiration

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One of the more unlikely free agent signings on July 1st came from Philadelphia, where the Flyers brought aboard a 32-year-old goalie that’s never played in the NHL — Rob Zepp.

Zepp, twice drafted by the Thrashers and Hurricanes, never advanced beyond the AHL level with either club and has spent the last nine seasons in the Finnish and German leagues. While his road to the NHL is an unlikely one, it’s not completely unheard of.

“Over the years, guys have done it,” Zepp said, per Simcoe.com. “Tim Thomas and Viktor Fasth came over in their 30s and we know the success they’ve had, especially Tim.

“Stories like that provide inspiration and motivation for guys like me.”

(Thomas was 31 in his first “full” NHL season and won his first of two Vezina Trophies at 34. Fasth was 30 upon making his NHL debut with Anaheim.)

As far as picking teams, Zepp chose wisely with Philadelphia. Steve Mason’s entrenched as the No. 1 and Ray Emery is returning as his backup, but neither is a lock for a huge workload. Mason missed time last season with a concussion and has never appeared in more than 61 games in a single season; Emery, who turns 32 himself in September, didn’t exactly have a banner campaign in ’13-14 (9-12-2, .903 save percentage, 2.96 GAA).

Throw in the fact AHL Adirondack goalie Cal Heeter is still relatively untested — he has just two full seasons at the American League level — and ’12 second-rounder Anthony Stolarz is still just 20 years old…and, well, Zepp could really have a shot at this. He’s no slouch, going 24-14-0 with a 2.39 GAA and .931 save percentage with Berlin last year, and knows this might be his real last chance at playing in the NHL.

“Ten or 15 years ago it was not possible,” he explained. “But maybe more teams realize guys have maybe been lost in the shuffle.”