Boston Bruins: Shawn Thornton punched with 15-game suspension

Seven days after the initial incident occurred – Shawn Thornton’s much publicized, controversial sucker-punching of Pittsburgh Penguins defenceman Brooks Orpik – the Bruins enforcer was finally sentenced for this actions. Today, after 24 hours of deliberation by the NHL’s chief of justice, Brendan Shanahan, it has been announced that Thornton’s suspension will endure 15-games.

The 15-game penalty is the nineteenth suspension awarded this season, and this year’s longest in length. The NHL has a reputation for being too lenient on violent offenders, however, we should’ve seen a stiff penalty coming for this particular incident – the league has always been strict when punishing sucker-punchers.

In 2004, Todd Bertuzzi’s sucker-punch on Steve Moore earned him a rest-of-the-season suspension, which eventually became 13 regular season games and 7 playoff games.

Back further, in the early 1990’s, when NHL players could practically get away with murder on the ice, the league suspended Dale Hunter 23 games for sucker-punching Isles centre Pierre Turgeon.

As you can see, if you throw a sucker-punch, you’re exposing yourself to a sucker’s punishment. Thornton will forfeit salary for the next fifteen Bruins games because of his inability to remain composed in a volatile game that featured several violent acts, all of which, can be viewed here.

Technically, Thornton was attempting to do his job, which is fight for his team. Except in this situation his combatant was unable and unwilling to fight back. For as long as the NHL allows players to bare-knuckle box on the ice, sucker-punches are bound to happen occasionally.

Throughout this week, many have stood up for Shawn Thornton – not for his actions, but for him as a person – and by all accounts, he is a really good guy. But good people make mistakes, and it’s only fair to call this the biggest mistake of Shawn Thornton’s otherwise very law abiding career. For a player whose job it is to take off his gloves and punch people in the head, this is Thornton’s first ever suspension. The two-time Stanley Cup winner has played more than 500 games in the NHL, amassed nearly 900 PIMs spanning eleven seasons.

As for his victim: Brooks Orpik suffered a concussion and was officially placed on the IR Monday. There is no timetable for his return.