Obama welcomes Bruins; Thomas absent

President Barack Obama saluted the NHL’s Boston Bruins for their 2011 Stanley Cup championship on Monday, citing the city’s run of professional team championships in recent years.

The Bruins won their first Stanley Cup title in 39 years last June after a bruising seven-game final series against the Vancouver Canucks.

There was a notable no-show. Goalie Tim Thomas, who was the playoff MVP last year, chose not to attend the event due to political differences with Obama.

Thomas, a Flint, Mich., native and one of only two American players on the Bruins’ Stanley Cup roster last season, was the only Boston player to decline the invitation.

"I believe the Federal government has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties, and Property of the People," Thomas said in a statement.

"This is being done at the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial level. This is in direct opposition to the Constitution and the Founding Fathers vision for the Federal government," he wrote.

"Because I believe this, today (Monday) I exercised my right as a Free Citizen, and did not visit the White House. 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."

Thomas, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in last year’s playoffs, is known to be a political conservative.

In brief remarks, President Obama noted Thomas’ stellar play on the title run, even though the netminder appears unlikely to return the compliment.

"This Stanley Cup was won by defense as much as by offense," Obama said. "Tim Thomas posted two shutouts in the Stanley Cup Finals and set an all-time record for saves in the postseason and he also earned the honor of being only the second American ever to be recognized as the Stanley Cup playoffs MVP."

Bruins president Cam Neely said the team was disappointed with the move by Thomas, and that his views do not reflect those of the Bruins organization.

”We are disappointed that Thomas chose not to join us,” Neely said, adding that the team would have no further comment on the matter.

Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said attendance was not mandatory, according to the Boston Globe.

“I can require someone to attend a team event. If they don’t, I can suspend him,” Chiarelli told the Boston Globe. “I’m not suspending Tim. Whatever his position is, it isn’t reflective of the Boston Bruins nor my own. But I’m not suspending him.”

The Cup title was the latest in a string of Boston sports championships, including the Celtics in 2008, the Red Sox in 2007 and the New England Patriots in 2005. The Patriots play in next month’s Super Bowl.

”The Bruins, the Sox, the Celtics, now the Patriots. Enough already, Boston,” Obama said during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House. ”What’s going on, huh?”

Obama also jokingly invoked some New England slang in welcoming the Bruins, along with the Stanley Cup, to the White House.

”I know you are all wicked happy to be here,” he said.

The president said there was no better image of the Bruins’ dominance than when Zdeno Chara, the team’s 6-foot-9 defenseman, hoisted the Stanley Cup above his head in Vancouver in celebration last spring.

”Which is, I’m sure, the highest that the Stanley Cup had ever been,” he said.

Obama drew laughter from the crowd when he cited the scrappy play of Bruins forward Brad Marchand, who emerged as a star with five goals in the last five games of the finals against Vancouver.

”’The ‘Little Ball of Hate’ shrugged off the rookie jitters,” said Obama, adding ”What’s up with that nickname, man?”

Obama praised the teamwork of the six-time champions.

”Together, these players proved that teamwork is everything,” he said. ”It can overcome injuries, it can overcome long odds.”

Obama praised the team for its work off the ice as well, noting the Boston Bruins Foundation has donated more than $7 million to charities in New England.

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., was on hand sporting, appropriately enough, two black eyes and a broken nose, which an aide said he got while playing in a recent pickup hockey game.

Newscore contributed to this report