Tim Thomas went off the grid upon stepping away from hockey after the 2013-14 NHL season.
Now we know why.
The former goaltender, who spent eight seasons with the Boston Bruins and won a Stanley Cup in 2011, fought back emotion Thursday while explaining to reporters in Washington that brain damage he suffered during his career forced him from the spotlight.
“I couldn’t communicate with anybody for a few years,” Thomas said in his first public appearance since 2014, per ESPN.com. “I didn’t call my dad. I didn’t talk to anybody. There was a time period, yeah, where I hated the game, so to speak. I didn’t sit there and (say) I hate it. My rebound effect was like, this wasn’t worth it.”
Thomas has emerged from the shadows in wake of being elected to the United States Hockey of Fame. But the last few years have been difficult for the two-time Vezina Trophy winner, who revealed Thursday that he suffered a life-altering concussion while playing for the Florida Panthers in 2013.
“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 following the team schedule the rest of the year and just made it through that season.”
“On the ice, I was able to be like 97 percent maybe, 95 percent of what I was before, but off the ice, like I said, I still can’t choose,” he added of his final days in the NHL. “I’m so much better, but 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.”
Thomas appeared in his final NHL game with the Dallas Stars on April 25, 2014. After that, he didn’t attend another NHL game until Wednesday night, when he dropped the puck before the Bruins’ nationally televised showdown against the Capitals in Washington — an opportunity that allowed him to finally catch up with several former Boston teammates.
“I couldn’t follow the game anymore,” Thomas said. “My brain wasn’t functioning well enough to be able to keep up with the game, so I sat out in the woods for a few years. I didn’t watch much hockey. There’s not much TV out there.”
Thomas, a four-time All-Star who nabbed the Conn Smythe Trophy after Boston’s 2011 Stanley Cup run, now lives in Idaho with his family. While many have joked about the Michigan native’s whereabouts over the years, the reality is no laughing matter.
“I didn’t want to talk about this. I didn’t want to talk.” Thomas, 45, said Thursday, tears rolling down his face. “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.”
Thumbnail photo via Screengrab