Tim Thomas didn't expect this - the pain, the suffering, being open about both. Yet there he was, signature goatee and all, speaking candidly with a small group of reporters earlier this month in Washington.
His voice trembled. Tears streamed down his cheeks. He bore it all.
"I wake up everyday and basically have to reorder everything in my mind for the first couple hours of the day and then make a list and try to make some choices to get some stuff done," Thomas said.
The former NHL goalie feels better now than he did when he retired in 2014. But, overall, Thomas is not OK. His brain simply doesn't function like a 45-year-old's should. He says a 2015 medical scan revealed two-thirds of it was getting less than 5% blood flow while the other third was averaging about 50%. Concussions sustained between the pipes have scrambled his brain.
"I couldn't communicate with anybody for a few years," Thomas said of his early retirement days, when he'd ignore loved ones. He later mentioned he "sat out in the woods" for a while, presumably to limit contact with the world.
The decade began with such promise for Thomas, who played a starring role in Boston's 2011 Stanley Cup victory. At 36, he authored a season for Bruins lore, posting a remarkable .939 save percentage in 82 total games played, claiming both the Vezina and Conn Smythe trophies.
Thomas was in D.C. for the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Dec. 12. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, who on several occasions has denied there's a link between hockey concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a neurodegenerative disease known as CTE, was part of the Hall's incoming class, too.
During Thomas' two-and-half-minute acceptance speech that night, Bettman was seated a few feet away, providing nods of support as the former netminder nervously stammered through some of his remarks.
The scene was surreal, all things considered, and a fitting end to the 2010s.