Former NHL goaltender Tim Thomas reportedly fought back tears Thursday ahead of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony as he described how a concussion he suffered in his last NHL season has affected his life.
“I couldn’t communicate with anybody for a few years,” Thomas told reporters on Thursday via ESPN. “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, who won the Vezina Trophy twice and one Stanley Cup with the Boston Bruins over a nine-year NHL career, alluded to health issues after he retired in a September conference call when he was one of five figures named to the Hall’s Class of 2019. On Wednesday, he and the other inductees dropped the puck at the Capitals-Bruins game in Washington, D.C., which Thomas said was his first NHL game since he retired — in part because of brain injuries he suffered while playing.
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Thomas told reporters he sustained a concussion “that changed my life” in a December 2013 game with the Florida Panthers.
“I woke up the next morning after it and I couldn’t decide what I wanted to eat, where I wanted to go,” he 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,” Thomas added. “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.”
According to ESPN, Thomas said it was difficult to face reporters at Thursday’s event. He had strayed from the hockey world since his retirement after the 2013-14 season. In September, he told reporters that the 2019 playoffs were the first he had watched since he stopped playing and that he does not envision himself getting involved with hockey again in the future.
“I couldn’t follow the game anymore,” Thomas told reporters. “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.”
“I didn’t want to talk about this,” he said. “I didn’t want to talk. 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.”
Thomas said support from his family — with whom he lives in Iowa — and reading Ken Dryden’s book “Game Change,” about Steve Montador, a former NHL player who was diagnosed with CTE after his death, helped him understand what was going on as he recovered from his concussions.
“That, to me, was a step forward as far as understanding that other people are going through the same deal,” he told reporters. “I just thought I was unique. When you’re going through it, you just can’t understand.”