U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame

AP Images

Tim Thomas details brain damage from hockey

7 Comments

WASHINGTON — Doctors told Tim Thomas that two-thirds of his brain were getting less than 5% blood flow and the other third was averaging about 50%.

His wife, Melissa, and oldest daughter, Kiley, started crying. Thomas didn’t react – because he couldn’t process what he was hearing.

“I couldn’t believe it because I couldn’t function well enough to understand it,” he said.

Now years removed from the goaltending career and the concussions that caused so many problems, Thomas on Thursday detailed the brain damage that derailed his life. He wrestled with the positive memories of winning the Stanley Cup with the Boston Bruins in 2011 as playoff MVP, his love of the game and the effects that playing in the NHL had on his brain.

Before being inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame, Thomas got choked up discussing the past several trying years and his long road to being able to talk about his problems. He is better now but still isn’t close to normal.

“What is normal, right?” Thomas said. “I wake up every day and basically I have to reorder everything in my mind for the first couple hours of the day and then make a list and try to make some choices to get some stuff done, which I’ve gotten to the level that I can.”

During his NHL career, Thomas was considered somewhat mercurial, which is not unusual for goaltenders. He was criticized for not visiting then-President Barack Obama at the White House with his teammates after the Bruins won the Cup.

Now 45, Thomas is still coming to grips with head injuries and one concussion from December 2013 that he said “changed my life.”

“I woke up the next morning after it, and I couldn’t decide what I wanted to eat, where I wanted to go,” Thomas said. “I couldn’t plan a schedule. I survived by following the team schedule the rest of the year and just made it through that season.”

He then hung up his skates.

Thomas struggled to communicate with anyone, let alone watch hockey, in ensuing years. He couldn’t keep up with games, and he moved with his family to the woods to get away. He didn’t talk to his former teammates or even call his father.

The brain scan occurred a year after his retirement, and his thoughts wandered to his career and the hits he took to the head.

“My rebound effect was like, this wasn’t worth it,” Thomas said. “That’s where I was then. Where I am today is past that. I ended up learning so many lessons out of the experience. It brought me tighter with my family. It taught me a value for life and a value for my brain that I’ve never had before. And I have appreciation for everything that I never had before. I don’t regret anything.”

Thomas on Wednesday attended his first NHL game since retiring and got to see some old Bruins teammates and friends behind the scenes. He’s not interested in getting involved with the game again in part because he thinks of the damage it caused him.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, who was inducted into the hall along with Thomas, said the league has taken steps to prevent and reduce concussions.

“We’ve put a tremendous amount of effort in diagnosing protocols, return to play protocols, making sure players are educated, changing the culture of the game so that players know that it’s OK to say, ‘I’m having symptoms,’” Bettman said. “We want to make sure that we’re doing everything possible, that we’re staying on top of the medicine and the science as it’s being told to us to make sure we’re diagnosing and treating appropriately.”

Thomas didn’t criticize the league or the players’ association for the concussions or the damage they caused. He said he has spent time learning about ionized water that has improved his symptoms and turned his old competitive juices toward learning about his brain and how it functions.

It was still a struggle simply to tell his story.

“I didn’t want to talk about this,” Thomas said. “I didn’t want to tell the world this stuff. Not till I felt ready, and I didn’t feel ready yet. But here I am.”

Thomas and Bettman were joined in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame class of 2019 by former NHL forward Brian Gionta, Olympian Krissy Wendell and Washington inner city hockey pioneer Neal Henderson.

Ex-Bruins goalie Tim Thomas breaks years-long silence

Getty Images
6 Comments

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

Getty Images
2 Comments

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.

Drury, Ruggiero, Schneider headline 2015 U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame class

3 Comments

The United States Hockey Hall of Fame announced its impressive 2015 class on Monday: Chris Drury, Angela Ruggiero, Mathieu Schneider and builder Ron DeGregorio.

Ruggiero is a trailblazer in women’s hockey, especially for the U.S. She won four Olympic medals, including a gold in Nagano. USA Hockey notes that her 256 games in a Team USA uniform tops any other player in the country’s history.

She also joined the Hockey Hall of Fame, so this has been a big year of recognition for Ruggiero.

Drury (pictured) might as well be synonymous with “winning.” He always seemed to find himself in the right spot to score big goals during his hockey career, so it’s no surprise that he enjoyed such team success: an NCAA title with Boston University in 1995, a Stanley Cup with Colorado in 2001 and strong international work. He’s also the only player to win a Calder Trophy and Hobey Baker Award.

Schneider won a Stanley Cup himself with Montreal in 1993 and was part of the World Cup of Hockey team that won it all in 1996. He was a two-time All-Star.

Here is a quick excerpt from a write-up for DeGregorio from USA Hockey:

Ron DeGregorio has helped shape American hockey for more than 40 years as one the most prominent volunteers in the history of USA Hockey and has conceived programs that have resulted in acclaim from around the world.

While DeGregorio’s ingenuity is evident in many areas, perhaps his most significant concept was starting USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program in 1996. A lightning rod for criticism when it was established, the NTDP has evolved into a revered program that has significantly enhanced elite player development and U.S. success in international competition.

Video: Ed Olczyk reflects on being named to U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame

8 Comments

American hockey is in such a great place right now that it’s no longer a shocker to see a guy like Patrick Kane or Zach Parise light up the NHL. Still, some believe that the likes of Mike Modano represented a golden era for their nation, so today was a special day for that group as Modano, Ed Olczyk and Lou Lamoriello were inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame.

Olczyk discusses that great honor in the video below.

This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!