President honors Cup champ Bruins

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama honored the NHL's Boston Bruins for their 2011 Stanley Cup championship, but one key member of the team was absent.

Goaltender Tim Thomas, one of only two Americans from the 2011 Stanley Cup team, decided not to join his teammates.

Thomas posted the following statement on his Facebook page at 6 p.m. ET:

"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"

"Everybody has their own opinions and political beliefs and he chose not to join us," Bruins team president Cam Neely said of Thomas. "We certainly would have liked to have him come and join us, but that's his choice. Obviously it's not a choice that most of the guys, all the guys came except for Tim. That's his decision and his choice."

On Monday night, Neely issued the following 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."

The 36-year-old Thomas had a lot to do with the Bruins' first title in 39 years. He went 16-9 in the playoffs with a 1.98 goals-against average.

During his speech, President Obama spoke glowingly about Thomas and his performance.

"This Stanley Cup was won by defense as much as by offense," Obama said. "Tim Thomas posted two shutouts in the Stanley Cup Finals and set an all-time record for saves in the postseason and he also earned the honor being only the second American ever to be recognized as the Stanley Cup playoff's MVP."

Bruins captain Zdeno Chara was informed of his teammate's decision Monday morning.

"Honestly, I don't have any thoughts about it," Chara said. "That's what he decided to do and the rest of it is up to him."

Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli spoke with Thomas to no avail.

"I don't have a real reason right now," Chiarelli said earlier Monday. "He chose not to show up. I believe he's doing a statement later. That's all I can tell you right now."

Obama hosted the six-time champions at a White House ceremony Monday afternoon, when he also lauded the team for its charitable work.

The Bruins won the Cup last June after a bruising seven-game final series against the Vancouver Canucks.

While Thomas was a no-show, Bruins coach Claude Julien called visiting the White House and meeting the president "unbelievable."

"At the end of the day, the highlight is always about meeting the president of the United States and having a chance to shake his hand and meet him in person," he said. "I really felt privileged to get a phone call from him at the end of June after we won the Cup. This is more than that now, it's an opportunity to meet him and shake his hand. What a great gentleman he is."

The Cup win was the latest in a string of Boston professional sports championships in recent years, including the Celtics in 2008, the Red Sox in 2007 and the New England Patriots in 2005. The Patriots play in next month's Super Bowl.

Obama said, "The Bruins, the Sox, the Celtics, now the Patriots. Enough already, Boston."

The president gave one player a good-natured ribbing, calling forward Brad Marchand by his nickname: "the little ball of hate."

"I definitely wasn't expecting anything like that," Marchand said. "It was pretty cool hearing that from the president and it'll be something I'll always be able to brag about."

The team stood behind the president and laughed at his description of the pesky forward.

"It was funny," Patrice Bergeron said. "He made a great speech and it was fun to be there and meet him. To hear him talk about us, it was special."

The few hours the team spent at the White House was almost unimaginable for all the guys.

"It's pretty surreal," Marchand said. "You see the White House growing up and obviously the president is legendary all over the world and to be able to be here and meet him is a pretty cool thing."

The one thing that stood out for Chiarelli was the fact that the president is "down to earth" and seems like a normal guy. The GM was amazed by the amount of history in the house and called it a special visit.

"It really felt like he actually liked sports," Chiarelli said.

In lauding the team's charitable work, the White House also said the Boston Bruins Foundation has donated more than $7 million to charities in New England.

Information from ESPNBoston.com's Joe McDonald and The Associated Press is used in this report.