June 3, 2012 may not be a date that's etched into the memory banks of Boston Bruins fans, but it was a day that changed the course of the franchise. This was when Tim Thomas took to his Facebook page and announced he would be taking some time off from hockey.
The news, while shocking, was not completely unexpected. Thomas was growing increasingly agitated with the very agitating ways of some Boston media members, stemming from his infamous absence at the White House in January of 2012. For the first time in his career, Tim Thomas was gaining notoriety for something other than his goaltending, and that wasn't sitting well with the veteran netminder.
Timmy then did what any rational and not at all eccentric or possibly insane person would do: shipped his family off to Colorado mid-season, quit his job, made the occasional cryptic Facebook posts, changed his phone number and cut off all contact with his now former teammates.
In hindsight, this was the best move for both Thomas and the Boston Bruins.
For Thomas, the decision seemed simple. He set out to conquer the world of hockey, and did so by winning the Stanley Cup, Conn Smythe, and (his second) Vezina Trophy in 2011. From that moment on, hockey started to encompass more than just stopping pucks. He was now a public figure, a star athlete in a title town. He was also a politically opinionated INDIVIDUAL who felt it necessary to use his celebrity status as a platform for his Facebook statuses.
To their credit, collectively, members of the Boston media are really good at a few things. One of their well-crafted skills happens to be harping on inane details of an athlete's personal life, dwelling on those details until the point is reached where it becomes personal for both the journalist and the athlete, and then running said athlete out of town with bad press- so it shall be written, so it shall be done.
Meanwhile on Causeway Street, the Boston Bruins and general manager Peter Chiarelli were left in an interesting situation. Their long presumed Goaltender of The Future, Tuukka Rask, was promoted to Goaltender of The Present. Thomas's contract was eventually shipped off to Long Island, and Boston could once again concentrate on winning, distraction free.
In Thomas's final year as a Bruin, the team's locker room became something of a sideshow. This was foreign territory for a team that had been more-or-less controversy free since coach Claude Julien took over in 2007. And despite player assertions to the contrary, those distractions carried over to the ice. Their first round exit at the hands of the Washington Capitals in the 2012 playoffs was a mercy killing.
So Thomas went off to Colorado and did whatever it is eccentric millionaires do in Colorado (probably live in a bunker because those jokes never get old right?!). The Bruins went off and made an improbable run at the Stanley Cup, which in turn inspired Thomas to return to hockey. Beautiful, isn't it? This must be the circle of life Elton John was talking about.
Now, just days removed from the start of the 2013-2014 regular season, Boston is sitting in prime position to once again compete for the Stanley Cup. Tim Thomas is in Florida, trying to do what he has done time and time again by proving the skeptics wrong and earning a roster spot with the Panthers.
It's time. Despite the initial shock and feelings of resentment or even betrayal, now is the time for Bruins fans to move on from The Great Tim Thomas Debacle of 2012, and bask in the memories of Thomas's 2011 performance. After all, he's one of the biggest reasons there's a sixth banner in the TD Garden rafters, his absence was one of the reasons the Bruins were successful last season, and his comeback will be the reason this whole storyline will be recycled once again when the Panthers come to town. The circle of life continues.