San Jose Sharks shifty forward Logan Couture was the last man standing in the NHL all-star game fantasy draft on Thursday in Gatineau, Que., but it was the early selection of Tim Thomas that garnered the most attention.
The Boston Bruins goalie was three days removed from his decision not to attend his team’s visit to the White House as Stanley Cup champions.
Thomas, an extreme right winger when it comes to his politics, made a statement on facebook explaining his decision, but was heavily criticized for abandoning his teammates in their ceremony with United States President Barack Obama last Monday.
Thomas, of Flint, Mich., wrote in his statement earlier in the week that he would not make any further comment on his decision. But as this year’s all stars gathered in Ottawa for Sunday’s all-star game, the subject was brought up again.
"I've had the full and unwavering support of my teammates and I really appreciate that," Thomas said.
The Bruins goalie would not comment on the criticism from Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick, a Democrat who called Thomas’ actions a disgrace. Thomas also was asked if he felt by not addressing the matter that it would only get worse.
"I have addressed it and what I said in my statement is what I believe," Thomas said.
Bruins captain Zdeno Chara and his assistant Joffrey Lupul of the Toronto Maple Leafs picked Thomas with the third selection in the draft after Team Chara took Pavel Datysuk and Team Daniel Alfredsson chose Ottawa Senators teammate Erik Karlsson second.
"Thanks for showing up," a fan from the crowd yelled at Thomas.
Thomas was then asked on stage in a joking manner if he had a hectic week.
"I followed my conscience and I'm grateful for all the support from my teammates friends and fans," Thomas said. "I said in my statement that I wouldn’t talk about it anymore. We’re in Ottawa for a reason and I’m extremely happy to be here."
Before the draft took place, Chara was asked about his strategy.
"You have to make sure you don’t get stuck with too many right wingers," was the last sentence in his Chara‘s answer.
So as follow up question the Bruins captain was asked facetiously by the Globe and Mail’s David Shoalts if that meant he would not select his Tea Party-supporting goalie.
Chara was puzzled. He didn’t get the inference. But even Lupul snickered sitting beside him, but didn’t bother explaining the joke.
Lupul’s teammate Phil Kessel endured plenty of jokes at his expense last year, when he was the last pick. But he has never played better. In the 82 games since, the speedy Maple Leafs forwards has 39 goals and 81 points. Couture didn’t seem to have a problem with the selection, especially considering he was given a car as a booby prize.
"I don’t even know if it’s ever happened before," he said. "Growing up, I was always one of the more athletic kids. When I was younger, I would have taken it a little more personally but right now I’m having fun with it."
In choosing Karlsson first, Alfredsson was taking a fellow Swede who lived with the Senators captain and his family last year.
"Erik’s obviously a great baby sitter. The kids love him," Alfredsson said.
Spezza was Alfredsson’s next pick, but before the selection made Karlsson took a shot at his Ottawa teammate.
"Spezza [who has a black eye after taking a puck in the head in warmup earlier this week] is pissed back there," Karlsson said. "You can see his black eye going even blacker."
Team Chara + Lupul (assistant) — in order, Datysuk, Thomas, Malkin, Hossa, Timonen, Perry, Price, Kessel, Suter, Howard, Campbell, Kane, Phaneuf, Iginla, Wideman, Gaborik, Eberle, Seguin, Benn.
Team Alfredsson + Lundqvist (assistant) — in order, Karlsson, Spezza, Quick, Giroux, Letang, Stamkos, Elliott, Weber, D. Sedin, Girardi, Yandle, Michalek, H. Sedin, Neal, Edler, Tavares, Hartnell, Pominville, Couture.