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Top Stories of 2012, No. 6: B’s Tim Thomas stirs up political controversy, announces sabbatical from hockey 12.28.12 at 11:18 am ET
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Over the final week of 2012, WEEI.com will count down the top 10 stories of the year in Boston sports. This entry in the countdown is No. 6: Tim Thomas’ political controversy and sabbatical.

Check out our previous entries:
No. 10: NHL lockout
No. 9: Wes Welker’s up-and-down year
No. 8: Bruins’ early playoff elimination
No. 7: Ray Allen’s departure from Celtics

Tim Thomas made headlines throughout 2012, first for his outspoken political views and later for his decision to take a year off from hockey. (AP)

A championship team’s visit to the White House usually doesn’t draw major headlines. In almost every case, players take photos with the president, speak with him for a few minutes, and come away talking about the memorable day they had. But when Tim Thomas decided not to join the rest of the Stanley Cup champion Bruins in Washington in January, the narrative changed.

As he posted on Facebook later that day, Thomas — a Michigan native whose helmet at the time read “Don’t tread on me” — declined the invitation because he believes the federal government infringes too much on citizens’ rights.

His Jan. 23 statement read:

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 president Cam Neely then released a statement on behalf of the organization:

“As an organization we were honored by President Obama’s invitation to the White House. It was a great day and a perfect way to cap our team’s achievement from last season. It was a day that none of us will soon forget. We are disappointed that Tim chose not to join us, and his views certainly do not reflect those of the Jacobs family or the Bruins organization. This will be the last public comment from the Bruins organization on this subject.”

Thomas was a crucial part of the 2011 Cup-winning team, finishing the playoffs with a .940 save percentage and winning both the Conn Smythe and Vezina trophies. He was the first goalie since 1975 to win both of those trophies and the Cup in the same year, and he sealed the title-clinching win with a 37-save shutout in Game 7 in Vancouver.

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Read More: 2012 Stories of the Year, Tim Thomas,
Top Stories of 2011, No. 1: Bruins’ Stanley Cup championship 12.31.11 at 12:00 pm ET
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For the final 10 days of 2011, WEEI.com has counted down the top 10 stories of the year in Boston sports. Our final entry in the countdown is No. 1: The Bruins’ Stanley Cup championship.

Check out our previous entries:
No. 10: NBA lockout
No. 9: NFL lockout
No. 8: Celtics’ playoff loss to Heat
No. 7: Patriots’ acquisitions of Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco
No. 6: Jacoby Ellsbury’s MVP-caliber season
No. 5: Patriots’ playoff loss to Jets
No. 4: Celtics’ trade of Kendrick Perkins
No. 3: Red Sox’ manager/GM turnover
No. 2: Red Sox’ September swoon

The Bruins raised their Stanley Cup banner on Oct. 6. (AP)

Before the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs, the questions surrounding the Bruins were more about Claude Julien’s job security than their chances of winning the Cup. The Bruins were mired in a 39-year title drought and had made an embarrassing exit from the playoffs the year before when they held a 3-0 series lead over the Flyers only to lose the next four games.

Boston entered the playoffs as the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference and would face the sixth-seeded Canadiens, against whom the Bruins had gone 2-3-1 during the regular season. And so, entering a playoff series against the Bruins’ biggest rival, Julien had to answer questions about whether he felt he was coaching for his job in the postseason.

“I’m coach like every other year,” Julien said two days before Game 1. “That part of it doesn’t change at all. You don’t come in here worried about yourself. In the playoffs, you come here worrying about winning the Stanley Cup. Certainly, it’s not even in the back of my mind.”

But the questions about Julien and the Bruins only grew louder when the B’s lost the first two games of the series, both of which were at home. The Bruins mustered just one goal in the first two games while the Canadiens scored five times. But the Bruins regrouped and won the next two games in Montreal, one in overtime fashion on a Michael Ryder goal.

In Game 5, the Bruins again won with overtime heroics when Nathan Horton found the back of the net in double overtime to give the Bruins a 2-1 win and a 3-2 series lead. The Canadiens pushed the series to Game 7 when they topped the Bruins with a 2-1 win off Boston College product Brian Gionta’s second period game-winner at the Bell Centre.

The final game of the series was a bitterly fought contest between the rivals, as Tomas Plekanec tied the game at 2 in the second period before Chris Kelly gave the Bruins a 3-2 lead in the third. With 1:57 remaining, P.K. Subban, a player who drew heavy criticism from Bruins fans (and Tim Thomas) for his alleged diving on the ice, tied the game on a power-play goal.

But Horton was again ready to play the hero. His goal off a slapper from above the left circle sent the Bruins to a 4-3 win and set up a rematch between the Bruins and Flyers.

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Read More: Claude Julien, Nathan Horton, Tim Thomas, Top Stories of 2011
The year in Boston sports: Most memorable games of 2011 12.29.11 at 10:03 am ET
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Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals ended with Tim Thomas and the Bruins celebrating a championship. (AP)

Even though 2011 wasn’t the most successful year for all of Boston’s teams, it certainly was a memorable one. Playoff rivalries were renewed for the Celtics, Bruins and Patriots, while the Red Sox added another chapter to their legacy of heartbreak.

Picking out the 10 most memorable games of the year was not an easy task. The Bruins easily could have dominated this list, with all of their dramatic playoff victories en route to winning the Stanley Cup. But we’ve attempted to include fair representation from all four of Boston’s major pro sports squads, featuring games that were memorable for the local teams’ success or failure.

10. April 8: Red Sox 9, Yankees 6

The Red Sox’ season started much the way it ended, with a sense of impending doom around the corner. After the Sox started the season 0-6, swept by both Cleveland and Texas, the offense finally clicked when the Yankees paid a visit to Fenway for the home opener. Dustin Pedroia hit his first home run of the season and the Red Sox erupted for 12 hits, giving them — and John Lackey – their first win of the season.

9. April 17, Eastern Conference quarterfinals, Game 1: Celtics 87, Knicks 85

Ray Allen’s 3-pointer with 12 seconds left in the game made sure the Knicks’ return to the playoffs (their first appearance in seven years) was a painful one. The Knicks led for almost the entire game, but the Celtics came up big down the stretch (and yes, a questionable call went their way). “Down the stretch we found a way to win,” Paul Pierce said. “And that was because of our experience.” The Celtics went on to win the series in four straight.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, kevin garnett, LeBron James, New England Patriots
Top 10 of 2011: Boston Athletes of the Year 12.22.11 at 5:10 pm ET
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Jacoby Ellsbury finished second in the American League MVP balloting in 2011. (AP)

Bruins goalie Tim Thomas was an obvious choice for WEEI’s 2011 Sportsman of the Year. With the veteran leading the team to its first Stanley Cup title since 1972 after a standout regular season, he stood above all other candidates.

That being the case, plenty of other Boston athletes deserve praise for memorable 2011 seasons in which records were broken, awards were won and individual performances were etched in fans’ memories. So, we present our list of the Top 10 Boston Athletes of 2011.

10. Keegan Bradley, PGA

A Vermont native who graduated from Hopkinton High School in Massachusetts, Bradley burst onto the scene in 2011 with his shocking victory at the PGA Championship, leading to his being named PGA Tour Rookie of the Year. Bradley beat Jason Dufner in a playoff at the Atlanta Athletic Club on Aug. 14 and became only the third man to win a major on his first try.

9. Geoffrey Mutai, Boston Marathon

Sure, it’s only of passing interest to many Boston sports fans, but the best individual performance of 2011 might have been Mutai’s victory in Boston on April 18. The 29-year-old Kenyan not only shattered the Boston Marathon course record by almost three minutes, he ran the fastest marathon in history, blazing to the tape in 2:03:02. Mutai would go to win the New York City Marathon in November, also setting a course record there.

8. Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox

The Red Sox’ biggest offseason acquisition came to town with high expectations, and he did not disappoint. Gonzalez was a force throughout the season, abusing the Green Monster like he’d been hitting at Fenway his entire life and reminding Red Sox fans of the value of having a strong defensive presence at first base. Aside from home runs (27), he posted career highs in almost every other major offensive statistic, finishing the season with a league-best 213 hits, a .338 average, a .410 on-base percentage, a .548 slugging percentage and 117 RBIs. He received a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger for his efforts.

7. Rajon Rondo, Celtics

He might not be part of the Big Three, but Rondo is becoming the driving force for the Celtics offense and defense. That was evident last season, when the All-Star and NBA All-Defensive first-teamer averaged a double-double with 10.6 points and a career-high 11.2 assists a game while averaging 37.2 minutes (also a career high). Rondo was spectacular when it mattered, recording a triple-double (including a franchise-record 20 assists) in a Game 3 victory over the Knicks in the playoff’s opening round. In the second round against the Heat, he dislocated his left elbow during Game 3 but dramatically returned to the game and, barely using his injured left arm, managed to spark the C’s to their only victory of the series.

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Read More: adrain gonzalez, Jacoby Ellsbury, Luke Kuechly, rajon rondo
Friday’s Morning Mashup: Rick Pitino fires back at John Calipari 10.07.11 at 7:35 am ET
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Welcome to Friday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our WEEI.com home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

WHAT’S HAPPENING LOCALLY FRIDAY:
No games scheduled

SATURDAY:
NHL: Lightning at Bruins, 7 p.m. (NESN)
MLS: Earthquakes at Revolution, 7:30 p.m. (CSNNE)

SUNDAY:
NFL: Jets at Patriots, 4:15 p.m. (CBS)

AROUND THE WEB:

♦ Following comments from University of Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari that were dismissive of Rick Pitino‘s Louisville program, Pitino responded in an interview with CBS SportsJeff Goodman. “Four things I’ve learned in my 59 years about people,” Pitino said. “I ignore the jealous, I ignore the malicious, I ignore the ignorant and I ignore the paranoid.”

Added Pitino: “If the shoe fits anyone, wear it.”

♦ Eagles defensive end Jason Babin was fined $15,000 for a hit on 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, and he isn’t happy about it. Tweeted Babin: Attn:Guy at the NFL that decides on who and how much players get fined Stop being a puppet, if you want to protect QB’s, get better linemen. Asked about the tweet, Babin said: “That was just meant to be sarcastic. But my main point was the person that decides the fines — I’m assuming they’re supposed to be unbiased and make decisions for themselves according to the rules and regulations — not let outside influences affect their decision-making. You know what they say, ‘One man with courage is a majority.’ ”

Meanwhile, Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey was fined $7,500 for an unnecessary roughness penalty, but he insists his offending hit came before the whistle. Stated Pouncey: “I’m not changing how I play.”

♦ The University of Alabama fan who is accused of poisoning trees at Auburn might once again be looking for a new attorney. Harvey Updyke Jr. went against his counsel’s advice and recently called in to a radio show to apologize “for all the damage I have done,” leading to attorney Glennon Threatt asking the court for permission to be the fourth lawyer to withdraw from the case. Said Threatt: “He needs somebody he will trust, and he needs somebody he will listen to.”

ON THIS DAY TRIVIA: The seventh of October has not been a successful day for the Red Sox throughout the years. On this date, they lost World Series games in 1946 and 1967, and playoff games in 1986, 1990, 1999 and 2005. They did have one big victory on Oct. 7, when in 1975 they beat the A’s, 5-3, to sweep the three-game ALCS. Who was Boston’s winning pitcher?

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Read More: Harvey Updyke Jr., Jason Babin, John Calipari, Maurkice Pouncey
LEEInks List: Top 10 Bruins All-Star Game moments 01.28.11 at 5:00 pm ET
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Ray Bourque salutes the Boston crowd after being named MVP of the 1996 All-Star Game. (AP)

As Tim Thomas, Zdeno Chara and Tyler Seguin prepare to take part in this weekend’s NHL All-Star festivities, we take a look back at the top 10 All-Star moments involving the Bruins.

10. 2008 — Willie O’Ree honored

Prior to the 2008 contest in Atlanta, the NHL honored the 50th anniversary of O’Ree breaking the league’s color barrier with the Bruins as part of a celebration of the league’s diversity. O’Ree played 45 career games with the B’s from 1958-1961.

9. 1991 — Mike Milbury picks enforcers

Milbury, then coaching the Bruins, stirred up some controversy (we know, shocking) as the coach of the 1991 Wales Conference team when he picked enforcers Chris Nilan (also with the Bruins at the time) and Brian Skrudland over legends such as Guy Lafleur and current stars such as Kirk Muller. Both Nilan and Skrudland ultimately missed the game with injuries, but the incident caused the league’s board of governors to change the way rosters were picked, taking the power out of the coach’s hands and giving it to a committee instead.

8. 2008 — Tim Thomas earns the win

In his first career All-Star Game, Thomas picked up the win by stopping 14 of the 18 shots he faced in the third period of the 2008 game. Although those stats aren’t all that impressive, it’s important to remember that there is virtually no defense played in All-Star Games. Thomas earned the win again the next season when he helped lead the East to a shootout win. Thomas will be making his third appearance in four seasons Sunday.

7. 2008 — Marc Savard nets the winner

Savard also made his first All-Star appearance in 2008 and, like Thomas, made an impact. He scored the game-winning goal with 21 seconds left in the third to give the East an 8-7 win. Savard wasn’t even picked to the team originally. He was named a replacement when Senators forward Dany Heatley backed out with an injury.

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Read More: Bill Guerin, Bobby Orr, Ray Bourque, Tim Thomas
Poll: Boston Athlete of the Year 12.22.10 at 11:03 am ET
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Who is the Boston Athlete of the Year for 2010?

  • Tom Brady (48%, 493 Votes)
  • Wes Welker (17%, 171 Votes)
  • Rajon Rondo (14%, 142 Votes)
  • Tim Thomas (12%, 127 Votes)
  • Jon Lester (4%, 39 Votes)
  • Paul Pierce (2%, 22 Votes)
  • Adrian Beltre (2%, 17 Votes)
  • Jerod Mayo (1%, 8 Votes)
  • Zdeno Chara (0%, 4 Votes)
  • Other (add name in comments section) (0%, 3 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,024

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Read More: adrian beltre, Athlete of the Year, Jon Lester, Paul Pierce
The latest NBA/NHL rumors, 7-2 07.02.10 at 12:46 pm ET
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It’s the second day of free agency in the NBA, and after Day 1 failed to produce any answers to when and where the biggest names will sign, the rumors (and some facts?) continue to pour in.

The biggest news of the day by far came early Friday morning when multiple outlets, including WEEI.com, reported that Celtics great Paul Pierce had agreed to a four-year, $61-million contract with the team. Pierce had opted out of his previous contract just days ago and became an unrestricted free agent, but Friday’s news most likely means he never wished to truly test the free-agent waters and instead wanted to rejoin the C’s from the get-go to try for another run at the title. To see what Pierce’s signing means for the C’s, click here.

Speaking of getting the band back together, the Boston Globe reported that the Celtics reached out to Ray Allen, the other free-agent member of the Big Three, first at 12:01 a.m. Thursday morning. C’s coach Doc Rivers, who had announced that he would remain on the Boston bench for at least another year, told the Globe, “The first call, we called Ray. We sat around and we have these names on the list and we said, ‘Hey guys, our most important guy is Ray. We gotta get Ray back.’” In the same report, it mentions that Boston reached out big men David Lee and Brad Miller as well. WEEI.com reported that the C’s were actually the first team to talk to Lee, who averaged 20.2 points and 11.7 rebounds per game last season for the Knicks.

The biggest non-Celtics rumor may be that Joe Johnson will reportedly accept the Hawks’ six-year, $119 million contract offer. He is listening to other teams, but according to ESPN.com, the deal is nearly as good as done. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Tim Thomas,