By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
BOLTON, MA Shawn Thornton has heard all of the whispered speculation this summer about the three tragic deaths of NHL enforcers since May.
He knows much of the chatter has been crafted around curbing hockey fights in the NHL, and hes got a message to those trying to use the regrettable deaths as ammunition for their anti-fighting propaganda.
Cut the crap or youre going to be answering to him.
It kind of expletive pisses me off that people take this opportunity to try and exploit a certain part of the game, said Thornton. I think those are very, very sad instances, but I also think exploiting them for a part of the game isnt the right way to go.
NHL fighters Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien and Wade Belak all died under complicated circumstances this summer. The beastly Boogaard was suffering from some very serious concussion symptoms and had developed an addiction to pain-killers that he was never able to overcome. Rypien had serious issues with depression and his own personal demons that may have contributed to his death. The circumstances behind Belaks death in Toronto last month have never truly been explained in the ensuing weeks.
But it was easy for many to still draw a parallel between the three players and their untimely deaths.
Some immediately assume that a potential cocktail of concussions, drugs and alcohol -- and perhaps even performance-enhancing drugs -- was messing with this particular class of NHL player, and turning them from hockey pugilists into ticking time bombs.
But theres only so much anybody will now know about what was going through the minds of Boogaard, Rypien and Belak directly before their respective deaths.
Never mind the fact that theres no proof in any of these cases that fighting had anything to do with their deaths. People that had already developed their strong anti-fighting agendas were ready to pounce on the deaths like grand-standing politicians after a community tragedy, and those opportunists found this summer of tragedy around the NHL as the perfect opportunity.
There appears to be a special circle in hell that Thornton has envisioned for those cold-hearted hockey pundits, and a simple piece of advice in the end from Bostons resident enforcer.
Thornton has been doing it for 12 seasons of pro hockey, has been in 86 career NHL scraps, and knows a thing of two about what hes talking about. He's also coming off a career year offensively that saw his Bruins win the Stanley Cup, and saw him prove that hes much, much more than a fourth line fighter. Hes also a guy with an enormous heart and his priorities in complete order when it comes to the deaths of his NHL brothers.
So he had another simple message.
I think we should remember those people for the men that they were, and not what they did for a living, said Thornton.
It might be time for the anti-fighting set to find another hockey ambulance to go chasing after because it looks like once again their efforts to manipulate lifes unexpected turns to their own advantage has been noticed and summarily punched into submission by Thornton.