It has been talked about often since it occurred – last Saturday Shawn Thornton of the Boston Bruins capped off a violent series of events in the first period of a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins by tripping and then sucker-punching Pens defenceman Brooks Orpik. He will be tried this coming Friday, in New York City, at the NHL’s head office, by the chief, Brendan Shanahan.
Shawn Thornton's in-person hearing for incident in Saturday's game against Pittsburgh will take place Friday afternoon at NHL office in NYC.
— NHL Player Safety (@NHLPlayerSafety) December 10, 2013
Thornton’s act was a slip of judgement on his part. With over 500 NHL games to his name, and nearly 900 penalties in minutes amassed, Friday’s hearing will the first time the Bruins’ tough-guy faces suspension from the league. His track record was clean, up until the Orpik incident.
How many games the league decides to suspend the Bruins’ fighter is anyone’s guess. In light of his clean rap sheet, Thornton may not face as lengthy a sentence as previous notorious sucker-punchers like Todd Bertuzzi and Dale Hunter, who earned 20 and 21 games respectively for blindside punching Steve Moore and Pierre Turgeon.
The league may decide to throw the book at Thornton – nail him with a suspension that exceeds 15 games. Or perhaps the league will only hit Thornton with 8-12 games as some suspect. It’s hard to guess sentence length in this particular case because the NHL considers many factors when determining the appropriate penalty for violent acts, sometimes creating the perception of inconsistency regarding player penalization. Whereas, merely jumping over the boards off turn to partake in a melee or scuffle will land the perpetrator a guaranteed minimum sentence of 10 games, in regards to sucker-punches and head-shots, no such standard exists.
We’ll just have to wait until the Shawn Thornton suspension is public knowledge on Friday. .