Controversial former NHL star Tim Thomas offered his first public comments in several years on Wednesday, after being named to the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.
"Everybody probably knows nowadays I don't have that much to say, at least publicly," said Thomas, the former Boston Bruins goalie who stepped away from public life after his final NHL season in 2013-14. "I've decided to keep whatever I've been doing in my life to myself, probably forever."
Thomas' career saw him rise from journeyman status to become a two-time Vezina Trophy winner and Stanley Cup champion. But a decision in 2012 to boycott the Bruins' visit to the White House transformed him from a hockey folk hero to a lightning rod of political controversy.
Thomas hadn't spoken to reporters in several years, and he reiterated during a conference call Wednesday that his private life would remain private. As for hockey, Thomas told ESPN that last season's Stanley Cup playoffs, in which the Bruins advanced to the Final, marked the first time he had consumed the NHL on a regular basis.
"I personally don't have any relationship with the game," Thomas said. "My focus is on learning about other stuff. I think I learned as much from hockey as I could."
The University of Vermont standout played in the minor leagues for years, and he first appeared in the NHL as a 28-year-old rookie in 2002-03 -- not becoming a regular with Boston until the 2005-06 season.
In 378 games with the Bruins, Thomas posted a 196-121-45 record. He became one of the league's top goaltenders, winning the Vezina Trophy in 2009 and 2011. He captured the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in 2011, leading the Bruins to the Stanley Cup with a 1.98 goals-against average, a .940 save percentage and a victory on the road in Game 7 in Vancouver.
Public perception of Thomas, however, changed after that championship when he opted not to accompany the team to meet President Barack Obama at the White House the following January.
A Tea Party supporter, Thomas posted on Facebook that "the Federal government has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties, and Property of the People" and "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."
That decision led to public criticism from fans and politicians, including then- Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and Sen. Scott Brown. At the 2012 NHL All-Star Game, Thomas called the controversy a "media-driven" one.
"I would really appreciate if people would leave my teammates and my family out of it," Thomas said then.
He last played during the 2013-14 NHL season at age 39, splitting 48 games between the Florida Panthers and Dallas Stars. After that, he stepped away from the NHL. There was speculation he might rejoin his 2011 Bruins teammates at a reunion in May, but Thomas stayed away.
Could he envision a return to Boston at some point?
"That's a tough one. With the state of my nervous system since I retired, I wouldn't be able to handle the crowd. It isn't as simple as it may seem," Thomas said. "It's not fun for me to travel anymore. It has nothing to do with the Boston Bruins or Boston fans. They loved the crap out of me when I was there."
Thomas is scheduled to travel in December to the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame ceremony in Washington, D.C. He will be inducted along with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, longtime NHL forward Brian Gionta, Washington youth hockey figure Neal Henderson and U.S women's star Krissy Wendell at an event on Dec. 12.