Boston Bruins: Shawn Thornton may face lengthy suspension for sucker-punch

In last night’s rematch of the Eastern Conference finals, all hell broke loose early and often, most notably when after a series of events, Bruins enforcer Shawn Thornton sucker-punched Penguins defenceman Brooks Orpik, knocking him unconscious. Orpik left the game on a stretcher. Thornton received a match-penalty for his assault and is scheduled to endure a hearing with the National Hockey League, at which point, Thornton will be suspended for an unknown period of games.

The contest got uncontrollably out-of-hand early, beginning with an open-ice hit by Orpik, which eliminated Bruins forward Loui Eriksson from the game. It was announced afterward that Eriksson suffered a concussion on the play – his second one of the season, or in five weeks to be exact.

Shortly after the hit on Eriksson, Bruins tough-guy, Shawn Thornton, challenged Orpik to a one-on-one fight, to which Orpik declined and referees intervened before damage could be done, or so they thought.

Still in the first period – one of the most violent opening frames of this NHL season – Bruins agitator Brad Marchand fell to the ice and was kneed in the head by Penguins sniper James Neal. You can observe the violence courtesy of this YouTube video:

Penguins vs Bruins has become the predominant rivalry in the NHL’s Eastern Conference, thanks to a heated 2013 conference finals battle and a built up hatred accumulated over several important games between the two clubs in recent memory.

Thornton will be suspended for his actions last evening, however, it is impossible to know for how long. The NHL is not exactly consistent with determining suspension length for such acts of violence, as they consider much criteria before passing final judgement. Thornton’s sucker-punch provides the league an opportunity to set an example, something they have failed to do this season when similar infractions have taken place, perpetrated by the likes of Patrick Kaleta, John Scott, and Max Lapierre to name a few.

Thornton’s hearing with the league will be of the in-person variety, allowing for a suspension of more than six games.