By Ryan Stieg, AllPuck.com
There are little things that annoy me such as bad driving habits, people who are frequently late, and the fact that there isn’t a Taco Bell in the town that I live in.
And then there are things that really “grind my gears,” to quote Peter Griffin.
One of those things occurred a couple of days ago when Boston Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas decided he wasn’t going to join his teammates for their White House invitation after the won the Stanley Cup last June.
When asked why, Thomas released a statement that was printed on NHL.com that reads like it was written by a deranged mental patient on the walls of his padded cell. He insists that this wasn’t about politics and then goes on a rant about how the federal government has gotten out of control and what the Founding Fathers really wanted. Sounds like it was about politics to me Tim!
However, the reason I’m writing about Thomas isn’t because of his political views, as weird as they may be. I’m writing about him because he forgot about what sports is all about: Being a part of a team. All through the playoffs last year, the Bruins epitomized the concept of “team” because they communicated well on the ice and supported each other. When Thomas skipped out on the ceremony and everyone else showed up at the White House, he was basically spitting on what they accomplished last season.
Not only that, but at the end of his statement, Thomas wrote that he needed to make this choice as an individual. In essence, he declared that he didn’t care about team unity at the ceremony and only cared about his own views on government. According to the Boston Globe, this selfishness has been going on for years as Thomas seems to emit an “it’s me against the world” demeanor and has very few friends on the team, citing one team source using a string of expletives to describe him. The article also gives off the impression that upper management has gotten tired of Thomas’s act and might be dumping him soon in favor of Tuukka Rask.
If that’s the case, Thomas has only himself to blame. Just imagine if you had just sucked it up and joined your teammates in celebrating a big accomplishment Tim. You could avoided a big controversy, gotten some respect from your colleagues and might be on better terms with the people who write your paychecks. Was that really that excruciating for you to do?
I’ll now switch gears and head to the world of college hockey, where two teams are heading in opposite directions.
The first is Thomas’s alma mater, the University of Vermont. The Catamounts went to the Frozen Four during the Thomas’s junior season and made their second trip back in 2009, losing in a nail-biter to eventual national champion Boston University. After returning to the NCAA tournament the following year, Vermont started to slide last season and really hit the skids this season. The Catamounts are currently sitting dead last In Hockey East with an overall record of 5-17-1 and only two wins in the conference. Vermont has also really struggled on the road picking up only one victory away from Gutterson Fieldhouse in an upset of Minnesota.
The Catamounts have a shot to finish the season on a good note as they get struggling New Hampshire and Northeastern in their next couple of series, but then have to play five games against BU and Boston College who are both ranked. Even though this season is lost, Vermont has the tradition to bounce back.
While Vermont is going through a rebuilding period, Ohio State is having its best season in years. The Buckeyes are sitting atop the CCHA standings and are currently ranked sixth in the nation. Ohio State also recently held the Frozen Diamond Faceoff at Cleveland’s Progressive Field, which was a huge success.
It hasn’t always been easy for the Buckeyes (or the Columbus Blue Jackets, for that matter) competing for attention in a football-crazed city. They also play in the cavernous Value City Arena which often has more seats than fans for OSU hockey games. However when I talked to Buckeyes head coach Mark Osiecki over the summer (who strangely went the same high school as me), he felt that fortunes are gradually changing as word spreads about the team.
“I think the people of Columbus aren’t really aware of our team,” Osiecki said. “I think we need to teach them the game and give the team more exposure. I think the Big Ten Hockey League will help with that.”
For those who don’t follow college hockey, the Big Ten Hockey League will launch beginning with the 2013-14 season thanks to Penn State, which is starting a varsity program. Also joining PSU and OSU are Michigan and Michigan State from the CCHA, as well as Minnesota and Wisconsin from the WCHA.
Associate Athletic Director Chris Schneider thinks the new league will be a huge benefit to the hockey team.
“I think this will change a lot of people’s minds about Ohio State hockey,” Schneider said. “A lot of our students have a hard time understanding the CCHA, but they understand the Big Ten. People don’t get that a game against Ferris State or Alaska is a conference game, but a game against Minnesota or Wisconsin isn’t. This will help clarify things. I also think the creation of the Big Ten Network will help create more national exposure for us and help our fan base grow.”
So will the Buckeyes’ success last? Signs are pointing to yes. OSU should make the NCAA tournament this season and there seem to be a lot of positives surrounding the program with the potential for more national exposure.
Osiecki seemed excited when I was talking to him, but he wants to keep expectations realistic.
“We just have to be real patient,” Osiecki said. “I think we are really developing a new culture here.”