Shawn Thornton appealed his 15-game suspension for his assault on Brooks Orpik, but the NHL and Gary Bettman held firm on the number. The league’s Commissioner heard Thornton’s case on Friday, December 20 and decided to uphold what Brendan Shanahan deemed was necessary.
As per NHL.com’s official release:
Commissioner Gary Bettman today upheld the 15-game suspension that was assessed to Boston Bruins forward Shawn Thornton by the Department of Player Safety for punching and injuring an unsuspecting opponent, Brooks Orpik of the Pittsburgh Penguins, in NHL Game No. 438 at Boston on Dec. 7.
Bettman’s entire response to the appeal can be read here.
Say what you will about the Commissioner, but the guy is a lawyer first and foremost and knows how to put together a response to things like Thornton’s appeal. Lengthy case in point, as per the full appeal:
As Mr. Shanahan indicated in the video explanation of his suspension decision, Mr. Thornton’s conduct cannot in any way
be considered a “hockey play.” Mr. Thornton himself was distant from the scrum and cannot claim that his conduct was motivated by any sense that he himself felt endangered or that he had any reason to believe that a teammate was endangered. To the contrary, after taking three (3) rapid strides towards the scrum, Mr. Thornton actually slowed down and glided the rest of the way down the ice, surveying the scene in order to decide what to do. After crossing the red line and before reaching the Pittsburgh blue line, he identified the Pittsburgh players (including Mr. Orpik) who were in or around the scrum.
(Tr. 38-39) He then bypassed Mr. Dupuis as he approached the scrum in order to get at Mr. Orpik. While I am prepared to accept Mr. Thornton’s testimony that at the time the whistle blew he had no specific intention of targeting Mr. Orpik (and may not have even realized he was on the ice), I believe it is very apparent from the video that given the scrum and his recognition of Mr. Orpik’s presence on the ice, Mr. Thornton recognized an opportunity to exact the retribution that was denied him when Mr. Orpik earlier had declined his invitation to fight. He casually skated up behind Mr. Orpik and took him down under circumstances in which the latter “never had a chance” to defend himself.
Interestingly (and disturbingly), Mr. Thornton testified at the hearing that he knew exactly what he was doing and that he was in complete control of his emotions.
That’s a pretty scathing response to Thornton’s claims, and it’s outstanding to see the league take a strong and hard stance against incidents like these. While they may be slowly working their way toward getting head shots out of the game, there’s no place in hockey for this sort of violent attack and Bettman did what had to be done to send the proper message.
Don’t do this again. Or else.