If you have not see the incident that occurred involving Shawn Thornton of the Boston Bruins attacking Brooks Orpik of the Pittsburgh Penguins, do not ask Orpik about it. He does not remember it. The man in charge of handing out the NHL’s suspensions, Brendan Shanahan, finally announced Thornton’s 15-game ban this past Saturday–a week after the 1st period assault took place.
That is right. Assault. There is no denying that what Shawn Thornton did mid-way through the 1st period on December 7th in Boston was assault. Thornton skated over half the length of the rink, singled out Orpik, slew-footed him to the ice, and punched him in the head twice. Knocking him out cold. This has all the elements of a crime, a guilty mind, premeditation, bodily harm, the list goes on. Had Thornton not been within the walls of an NHL rink on that Saturday night, he would have been placed in handcuffs and charged with a crime and would be facing a lot more than sitting out a total of 15 games. And this is where one of NHL’s bubbles is exposed.
Shawn Thornton was only subject to the NHL’s penalty against him, and he is lucky for that. In fact, Thornton can even appeal the length of the suspension with the backing of the NHL’s players association. If Thornton were the stand-up, feel bad, I did not mean to do that guy he says he is, then he would face his suspension head on, sit out 15 games, and be happy he can come back to play in the world’s most elite hockey league. But he won’t. But then again neither would any player. Because face it, the players in the NHL no longer have any self respected for the livelihood or well-being towards their fellow players. James Neal’s knee to the head of Brad Marchand in the same game speaks volumes to that.
Thornton claims to know Oprik, having trained with him in the past and even referred to him by a nickname in his post game comments. He says he is so sorry. I do not buy it. Thornton’s attack is just the pinnacle of how players treat one another on the ice. With hits from behind, hits to the the head, elbows to the chin, players clearly have no regard to their actions on the ice towards other players. These players do know each other, whether it has been from being teammates in the junior leagues, taking part in developmental leagues or just playing in the NHL (there are only about 700 active players in the league) no one can convince me that players do not know each other. So, why do players not respect one another? The answer lies within the bubble of the NHL. They refuse to make an example out of anyone. While the length of the suspension to Thornton is debatable, what is not is that accountability could have been established by making an example of him. Yet, it was not. So, now, in the not to distant future all fans of the NHL will all not be able to remember what Thornton did, just like Orpik.