U.S. President Barack Obama honoured the Boston Bruins for their 2011 Stanley Cup championship and charitable work off the ice Monday.
Obama hosted the Bruins at a White House ceremony, minus their star goaltender.
Tim Thomas, the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as most valuable player in the playoffs, did not attend. Thomas explained his decision later Monday in a post on Facebook:
"I believe the federal government has grown out of control, threatening the rights, liberties, and property of the people. 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.
"Because I believe this, today 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.
"This is the only public statement I will be making on this topic. TT"
' … Bruins, the Sox, the Celtics, now the Patriots. Enough already, Boston' — Barack Obama
It was the latest visit from a Boston club, with the city's championships in recent years including the Celtics in 2008, the Red Sox in 2007 and the New England Patriots in 2005.
The Patriots face the New York Giants 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 defenceman, 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 Boston's sixth NHL championship club.
"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 that the Boston Bruins Foundation has donated more than $7 million US to charities in New England.
"I can require someone to attend a team event," said Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli. "If they don't, I can suspend him. 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."
Thomas isn't the first high profile athlete not to visit the White House as part of the ritual.
Albert Pujols, now with the Los Angeles Angels, didn't join members of the 2011 championship St. Louis Cardinals last week.
Dan Hampton of the Chicago Bears said late last year he wouldn't join his 1986 Chicago Bears teammates on their October trip. The original White House visit for that Bears team had been cancelled due to the Challenger space shuttle disaster.
Hampton admitted he wasn't a supporter of Obama, but also said he didn't think it was right that players' wives and children weren't allowed to join sports teams.