Thomas first ignited a firestorm just over two weeks ago by refusing to join his teammates in their visit to the White House to commemorate their Stanley Cup victory last spring, then posting on Facebook that he chose not to attend because of his belief that "the Federal government has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties, and Property of the People."
Just as the furor over that incident began to subside, Thomas posted another message on Wednesday, stating, "I Stand with the Catholics in the fight for Religious Freedom." That was followed by a quote from Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller lamenting the failures to speak up sooner against the Nazis during the Holocaust. Thomas' post appeared to be in reference to a federal mandate that all insurance plans, including ones run by religious organizations, cover the cost of female contraception.
Not surprisingly, that comment drew plenty of attention, with news as well as sports reporters mobbing the Bruins locker room after Thursday's practice at Ristuccia Arena to see if Thomas would clarify or expound upon his Facebook comments. Thomas refused to answer a series of questions about the topic before ending the interview and walking away from the assembled reporters.
"I say that that's my personal life and has absolutely nothing to do with the Bruins or hockey," Thomas said. "And I'm going to use my right to remain silent."
He repeated that line almost verbatim when asked if he planned to go into politics after hockey and if he thought the controversy was affecting the team, which suffered a season-worst 6-0 loss in Buffalo on Wednesday night.
Coach Claude Julien wouldn't use the controversy for the team's poor play of late, with the Bruins just 5-6-1 in their last 12 games.
"We've got good team chemistry in that dressing room," Julien said. "We don't mix politics with our hockey team. … It's something that people would probably like to think because of how poorly we've played lately, but I assure you there’s no issues in the dressing room. There never will be. We’ve got a really good group of players in there that don’t let those kind of things bog them down."
Whether it's affecting the team on the ice or not, there's no doubt that the controversy is having an effect in the locker room, where Thomas' teammates were again inundated with questions about it.
"It's Timmy's thing," said defenseman Steven Kampfer, a Michigan native and one of just two Americans besides Thomas on the Bruins roster. "It's what he believes. We're here to play hockey. We support him as a hockey player and that’s all we’re going to say about it."
When asked if he thought Thomas would attempt a career in politics after his playing days, Kampfer deferred, noting that his conversations with Thomas seldom strayed from the game itself.
"I don't know, I've never talked to Timmy about life after hockey," Kampfer said. "I've always just talked to him about stuff that's going on in the locker room. We’ve always kept it to a hockey relationship."
The Bruins continue to acknowledge Thomas' right to say and believe what he wants, but Julien was also quick to distance the organization from the beliefs that Thomas has professed.
"I don't think I've heard anybody, starting from our owners to management to coaches and players, I don’t think I’ve heard anybody support his opinions," Julien said. "But I've heard everybody say that we support him as a player, and we do."
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