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SHANABANNED! Shawn Thornton gets 15 games for attack on Brooks Orpik

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Shawn Thornton's punches on Brooks Orpik landed him the second-longest suspension of the Brendan Shanahan era.  (Fred Kfoury/Icon SMI)

Shawn Thornton’ was handed the second-longest suspension of the Brendan Shanahan era. (Fred Kfoury/Icon SMI)

By Allan Muir

The NHL sent a clear message in giving Boston Bruins enforcer Shawn Thornton a 15-game suspension for “pulling [Brooks] Orpik out of a scrum, yanking him to the ice and punching him multiple times, leading to a serious injury.”

The message is not so much to one player (Thornton) who had crossed the line, though. This suspension was all about letting lawyers and ex-players and anyone else who is inclined to take the league to task for its approach to violence know that it is capable of policing itself and is serious about eliminating these incidents.

In handing down the second-longest suspension of the Brendan Shanahan-era, it didn’t matter that Thornton was a highly respected player who has assayed the role of enforcer with honor for more than 500 games. This wasn’t a hockey play gone wrong. It was a dangerous act of premeditated retribution. With this sentence, the league made it clear that kind of incident will be severely punished, regardless of a player’s motivation or reputation.

There’s an argument to be made that Orpik had something coming to him for his gutless cheap shot on Loui Eriksson earlier in the game, and it was his unwillingness to stand up to Thornton’s earlier challenge that led to the tragic escalation of hostility. You can be sure that plenty of people in the game have no issue with the Bruin seeking his pound of flesh.

But while “The Code” — those ill-defined rules of accountability that have governed on-ice conduct for decades — may stand up on ice…

…it would wither under examination in court.

So 15 games, then, is a pledge. A show of good faith to players and fans — and potential jurors — that the league won’t let the mayhem of the past define it in the future.

That won’t be enough for everybody, but it’s evidence the league takes any breach of conduct seriously.

And these days, evidence is probably more important than deterrence.

  • Published On Dec 14, 2013
  • 20 comments
    GodofAcid
    GodofAcid

    I like this and hate it at the same time. The reason I like it is because the league needs to send a message about things like this. It can't be tolerated. I hate it because how many goons with a history of trying to injure others and at times end their careers have gotten 5 game slap on the wrist suspensions over and over again? If this is the beginning of the league cracking down on everyone that goes out of their way to hurt someone seriously, I'm all for it. If the next time a Matt Cooke type tries to put one out of the game, Shanahan slaps him on the wrist with anything under 10 games, then this is a joke.

    MikeMike2790
    MikeMike2790

    Put the coward that attacks a man from the blindside in prison where he belongs.  Anywhere else beside a hockey rink, he would be charged with assault.

    likedoohan
    likedoohan

    This garbage will not stop until teams and coaches are made to share the pain. Unskilled players who survive in the NHL through goonery are still making way more money and living a lot better, even with suspensions, than they could doing anything else. The active roster spots are filled by someone with comparable skills, so the coaches don't care how long suspensions last. The team ownership doesn't care because they lose nothing. This would stop pretty quickly if roster spots could not be filled and coaches and teams were fined. The NHL is absolutely not serious about curbing goonery. If it were, it could be stopped tomorrow.

    tom o
    tom o

    Always the freaking Penguins..the gutless cheap shot champions of all times, first Matt Cooke and now Orpik. 

    GeoffreyHolland
    GeoffreyHolland

    " gutless cheap shot on Loui Eriksson"??????

    LOL! Borderline interference, everyone calls it a hockey hit. Shoulder to chest.

    JohnCampbell
    JohnCampbell

    the orpik hit on erickson was clean.  thats called hockey.  everything else is pretty spot on.


    ejspjp
    ejspjp

    Gutless cheap shot?  the kid should keep his head up.  clean hit to the chest, clean check.  there have been thousands of checks like that in the history of hockey.  the retaliation by thorton was a first.  should be gone for good.  acts like thorton's make hockey a joke.  any other sport and he'd never play again.

    Jai2
    Jai2

    IT was not an attack it was payback.NHL. Did ophak get suspended for his cheap shot on the Bruin? What a joke

    djbstl
    djbstl

    Seriously Allan Muir.  "Gutless cheap shot" by Orpik?  It was clearly a clean, if brutal hit.  Your making excuses for Thorton"s actions by blaming Orpik are what are gutless and cheap.  Thorton committed what amounts to a criminal assault.  Fifteen games is a joke.  The fact that Orpik delivered a brutal check and then refused to fight is a pathetic excuse for Thorton's actions.  You should be ashamed.

    wlewisiii
    wlewisiii

    What a joke. Hockey is what these thugs pretend to play in between fights. Put 'em all in prison and be done with it. 

    themightyigor
    themightyigor

    15 games is tough. Horsefeathers, at least 20 would have sent a message. Any deliberate headshots should be a minimum of 10 and escalate that for repeat offenders an additional 5 every time and we will see some semblance of respect for the game again. 

    MarcShade
    MarcShade

    As a long time hockey player and fan, I am sorry but I completely disagree with your conclusion "that Orpik had something coming to him for his gutless cheap shot / his unwillingness to stand up to Thornton’s challenge".  As reported on TSN, the vast majority (other than Bruins) of NHL players concluded that Orpik's body check a clean and legal hockey hit.  As for skating away from Thornton, Sidney Crosby got it right when he said that it would have been stupid to lose one of your top four D-men for five minutes while the Bruins only lost a fourth liner who doesn't play much more than five minutes a game!  Eriksson took a big but legal hit.  Next time, Eriksson will skate with his head up like they started teaching him in when he was seven years old.  If not, take the hit and try to give a legal one back, if you are up to it. Thornton should be in jail, not having a beer in the press box for 15 games. Shame on you for condoning his actions.  That's not hockey!

    me1
    me1

    "Gutless cheap shot?". A legal hit now called a "gutless cheap shot". Borderline? Maybe you can argue that. But if the puck was 3 feet closer...how would it have been called 100% of the time? That's right...legal. It is a shame that opinions can't remain excluded from reporting the news. 


    I can live with 15 games (I called for 20). I don't think it is enough to prevent this type of mentality from taking over the game. But the lawsuits will. 


    If Thornton wanted to make a point...take the instigator and start the fight. Instead, HE TOOK the gutless cheap shot by blind-siding Orpik...potentially risking permanent injury. Why take the low road when you can be a true "enforcer"? 

    JeffSmith4
    JeffSmith4

    Calling Orpiks hit gutless and cheap is just your opinion, many think it was just a good hit. Thorton should be in jail and it's highly possible that he will return to play before Orpik.

    The words gutless and cheap should have been reserved for Thorton.

    tnazar
    tnazar

    @likedoohan By implication you've reduced Thornton to a goon. He is a very effective forward albeit not a franchise player. He scores crucial goals, is fearless in the corners and around the front of the net. Yes, his rule is also that of enforcer, but it wouldn't be necessary if the zebras controlled the game. It's when they close their eyes to cheap shots by favored players that games get out of control.


    Cindy Crosby took Marchands skates out from under him, that's why he was lying on the ice so Neal could put the knee to his head. Cindy didn't get called because "pink hats" do not pay outrageous ticket prices to see him in the sin bin.


    Orpik is an Ulf Samuelsson type player. Capable of creating chaos, but then turtling when another player calls him on it. Orpik also wears a Pen's sweater so he's halfway home with the zebras.


    Consistency by the zebras and Shanny, blind justice without regard for who it is, and good clean contact - not head shots like Orpiks to Erikkson - will go a long way toward taking "goonery" out of the game. But there will still be fights. There will still be injuries. If they are too much for you, perhaps high school hockey would suit you better.

    GodofAcid
    GodofAcid

    @thewhitemamba1Yeah cause it's classy to characterize an entire city by one person's stupidity. There's a lot of irony in your comment.

    Mktcrasher
    Mktcrasher

    @GeoffreyHolland Exactly...this guy is a hockey writer?  Clean hit.  Since when does a clean hit require a guy to fight afterwards?  That is the ridiculous part of all this....and happens more and more.

    tnazar
    tnazar

    @GeoffreyHolland Concussions do not result from shoulder to chest - replays also showed Orpik raising himself up and putting his shoulder into Erikkson'

    s head. I have no doubt those replays never made it to Pittsburgh television.