BOSTON -- Looking at Shawn Thornton’s eyes as he spoke, you could tell they were welling up with tears at the thought of Saturday night’s actions. After 15 years of pro hockey and 11 years in the NHL as an honest enforcer that lived by “The Code” and the standard by which so many hockey fans still hold dear, Thornton now has a blemish on that previously perfect body of hockey work.
The 36-year-old enforcer snapped on the ice after watching one too many questionable hits from the Pittsburgh Penguins, and attacked Brooks Orpik during a stoppage in play by dragging him to the ice with a slew foot, and then punching him twice to the head until the Penguins defenseman was unconscious on the ice.
The actions followed Orpik smoking Eriksson with a hit on the first shift of the game that concussed the Swedish winger, and the Pittsburgh defenseman refusing to drop the gloves with No. 22 later in the first period.
Orpik needed to be taken out on a stretcher where he was treated for a suspected concussion, and Thornton confirmed following the B’s 3-2 win over Pittsburgh that he already has a hearing scheduled with Brendan Shanahan and the NHL Player Safety Department. Thornton has never had a hearing or a suspension during his long NHL career with the Anaheim Ducks and Bruins, but that’s about to change with a long suspension from the league.
“I feel awful. It’s definitely not what I’d want to see, or what anybody would want to see,” said Thornton, with tears welling up in his eyes. “Obviously I made a mistake. I’m aware of it. It’s hard to say much more than it wasn’t my intention, I feel awful and I’ve felt sick for the entire game.
“It’s always my job to defend my teammates. But I’ve prided myself for a long time with staying in the line. I can’t say ‘I’m sorry’ enough. I’m sure I’ll be criticized for saying it, but it’s true. I hope [Orpik] is doing alright.”
Thornton was hit with a match penalty for the incident, and will be considered suspended until he actually has his hearing with the league over the next few days.
James Neal also has a hearing with the league, his for a cheap knee to the head of Brad Marchand while Marchand was already down on the ice. Neal's hearing is by phone, which means he'll be suspended 5 games or fewer.