Before Wednesday night's game against the Washington Capitals Bruins fans were treated to a rare occurrence. Tim Thomas, the goaltender who helped lead Boston to the team's 2011 Stanley Cup victory, was on hand as part of the opening ceremonies.
Thomas, who was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Thursday night, took the time to shed some light on concussion-related struggles he faced following his National Hockey League career. Thomas's story also gives fans a glimpse into why he has been absent from the hockey scene for years.
Thomas told reporters that he suffered a concussion during a game in his last season while a member of the Florida Panthers. He played for the Panthers and the Dallas Stars during the 2013-2014 campaign, following a one-season hiatus he took from the game while still under contract with the Bruins.
The goaltender, who played several years in Europe before beginning his NHL career in 2005, said the concussion-related issues surfaced the morning after the injury. Thomas said he could not make everyday decisions, such as what to eat or what tasks he needed to accomplish.
Although he still struggles with decision making, Thomas said his cognition has improved thanks to various treatments. He also credited the support of his family as key to his post-retirement recovery. Thomas said he still needs to make lists and use other organization methods to keep track of daily tasks.
At first, Thomas said he did not want to talk to anyone, even his father. He spent time living in the woods. His remote location and inability to follow the game closely, while he did have access to television, kept him almost completely away from hockey. Wednesday night's Bruins-Capitals game was the first one Thomas had attended since he stopped playing.
Although he said he was not entirely sure he was ready to share his post-hockey challenges, Thomas said he felt at home at the rink. He also said he enjoyed seeing and catching up with his former Bruins teammates, including Tuukka Rask, Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Brad Marchand.
Bruins players, fans and media certainly receive the 2011 Conn Smythe Trophy winner well, and were happy to see him at his first game since 2014. Hopefully we will not have to wait another five years to see him around the rink again.