Boston Bruins president Cam Neely admitted Tuesday that he would have liked goaltender and Stanley Cup MVP Tim Thomas to be with the team when they visited the White House on Monday, but that Thomas "felt very strongly about not going" so the team respected his wishes.
"I felt this was a team event and it would have been nice for him to be a part of it," Neely said on 98.5 the Sports Hub.
He said the team didn't make the event mandatory because "we didn't think it would be an issue."
Neely said he doesn't expect the controversy to adversely affect the Bruins' chemistry, pointing out with a laugh that not a lot of political discourse occurs in an NHL locker room.
"For the most Tim has kept his views to himself, from what I understand. If we didn’t’ get invited to the White House no one would know his views on the federal government."
Neely said he hopes it becomes a non-issue as soon as the puck is dropped Tuesday night in Washington when the Bruins face the Capitals.
"I believe this isn’t going to create a distraction," said Neely. "... After the game tonight, my hopes are it will be all talk about the game and how we played."
Thomas explained Monday night in a Facebook page posting that he skipped the White House event due his disappointment in the federal government. His post read:
"I believe the Federal government has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties, and Property of the People.
This is being done at the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial level. This is in direct opposition to the Constitution and the Founding Fathers vision for the Federal government.
Because I believe this, today I exercised my right as a Free Citizen, and did not visit the White House. This was not about politics or party, as in my opinion both parties are responsible for the situation we are in as a country. This was about a choice I had to make as an INDIVIDUAL.
This is the only public statement I will be making on this topic. TT"
Later Monday night, Neely released this Bruins statement:
"As an organization we were honored by President Obama's invitation to the White House. It was a great day and a perfect way to cap our team's achievement from last season. It was a day that none of us will soon forget. We are disappointed that Tim chose not to join us, and his views certainly do not reflect those of the Jacobs family or the Bruins organization. This will be the last public comment from the Bruins organization on this subject."