After one week’s worth of public outcry on Twitter, and careful evidence gathering by the NHL, Shawn Thornton of the Boston Bruins was finally suspended for a slew-foot and two sucker-punches to Penguins defenceman Brooks Orpik. Thornton’s penalty was a stiff, season-high, 15-games. Within the allowance of the rules set in motion by the most recent collective bargaining agreement, the Bruins enforcer has until today to appeal the league’s decision. If Thornton appeals, the following will occur:
First, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman will examine the case and if he so chooses fit, he may reduce the term of Thornton’s lengthy suspension. If Bettman decides to do nothing in the player’s favour, Thornton is within his rights to plead his appeal in front of a neutral arbitrator (something that has never been done before for a suspension). The league instituted the player’s appeal option as part of the CBA that was agreed upon less than a year ago, and since being approved, no such appeal has taken place. That being said, this is the first monster suspension to be sentenced since the new CBA was finalized in January of 2013.
There is no official word stating Thornton will appeal, rather, such action has merely been speculated in the aftermath of his post-suspension statement:
“I am aware of today’s ruling by the NHL Department of Player Safety. I will be consulting with the Bruins, my representation and the NHLPA about next steps, and will be in a position to address the matter publicly after speaking with those parties. Until then I will have no further comment.”
Here is what we do know: Shawn Thornton, who is not eligible to play again until January 11th against the San Jose Sharks, is participating at Bruins practice today:
Thornton participating in practice.
— Joe McDonald (@ESPNJoeyMac) December 16, 2013
The NHL is often criticized for penalizing each violent NHL act with inconsistency. Back in the second round of the 2009 Stanley Cup playoffs, Bruins defenceman (now retired TSN panelist), Aaron Ward was sucker-punched by Scott Walker of the Caroline Hurricanes. Walker was not suspended, as we were reminded today by Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo! Sports:
— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) December 16, 2013