Why former Bruins great Tim Thomas fell off the grid after playing days

Matt Kalman
December 12, 2019 - 8:57 pm

There’s a terrible reason Tim Thomas hasn’t been involved in hockey since he retired from the NHL after the 2013-14 season.

In an emotional press conference before he was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame on Thursday in Washington, D.C., the Bruins legend and 2011 Stanley Cup winner detailed the health issue that has affected him since his playing days.

Hockey-related brain trauma has hampered Thomas since he last manned the crease.

"I couldn't follow the game anymore," Thomas told the media in D.C. "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."

Thomas said that doctors told him two-thirds of his brain were getting less than 5% blood flow and the other third was averaging 50%. In the years since his diagnosis he’s been learning to live with decreased brain function.

“What is normal, right?” Thomas said, according to Stephen Whyno of Associated Press. “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, which I’ve gotten to the level that I can.”

Thomas, now 45, played in 477 NHL games in the regular season and playoffs combined. He recalled having several head injuries, including a concussion in December 2013 that really changed his outlook on the sport and his career.

Thomas was among the group of USHHOF inductees that dropped the inaugural first puck at the Bruins’ game against the Washington Capitals on Wednesday. That gave Thomas a chance to reconnect with former Bruins teammates like Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron for the first time since he took a leave of absence from the team after the 2011-12 season and was eventually traded to the New York Islanders.

But it doesn’t sound like Thomas will be around hockey much after his induction.

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