BOSTON -- Shawn Thornton has always viewed his role with the Bruins in a certain light, and it’s the reason he continues to come into camp in top shape each and every year. The 36-year-old gets up early every morning in the summer to go running, engages in boxing and Jujitsu training, and does whatever he can to stave off Father Time as an experienced enforcer in a young man’s game.
It was a rush with only a nine-week break between the end of the Stanley Cup Final and the start of NHL training camp.
“You don’t get as much time off . . . that’s simple mathematics,” said Thornton, who led the NHL in fighting majors in each of the last two full seasons prior to the lockout year. “There isn’t as much vacation time, but I’ve told myself that in a few years I’ll have all of the vacation time that I’ll need. Short summers are a good thing in this sport.”
That's the fourth line right wing and two-time Stanley Cup champion's simple philosophy, which stems from his knowing all too well his place within the NHL world.
“I get excited every year. Things are always a little different each and every season,” said Thornton. “I’m the fourth line right winger. That job is never secure, so I make sure to work my ass off so I can keep it. If you get complacent then that’s when the job will pass you by.
“On a personal level I’ve never been complacent. I work my hardest for the eight weeks to make sure it pays off deep into the season.”
Thornton has been skating with Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille throughout training camp thus far, and it would appear that Boston’s Merlot Line will once again stay together for another run as the league’s best fourth line. As with the last couple of years, however, the enforcer has some competition in training camp with Providence Bruins tough guy Bobby Robins.
Robins was signed to a two-year deal during the summer -- his first contract with an NHL team -- and has been a willing combatant and emotional spark for the AHL over the last few years. Thornton has handled camp competition with Brian McGrattan and Lane MacDermid over the last couple of seasons, and views the sharing of training camp with Robins in the same light.
Is Robins viewed as competition?
“Probably . . . I’m assuming. It isn’t going to change what I’m doing out there," Thornton said. "Those are situations handled by management. I’m assuming it’s no different last year when Lane was here, and the year before when McGrattan was here. In camp there is always competition for jobs, and competition is never a bad thing.”
Don’t expect Thornton to go out and start a few fights in the preseason in order to prove his worth to the team. He does that during the regular season when he provides the Bruins with plenty of the fearless snarl that’s been a staple of their team personality since his arrival.