League makes it official, saying it will announce the length of Thornton's suspension on Saturday.
— Joe McDonald (@ESPNJoeyMac) December 13, 2013
Thornton met with Brendan Shanahan today to discuss the events of Saturday, December 7; the night the shyte hit the fan in a game between the Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins, at TD Garden. As you almost undoubtedly already know, Penguins defenceman Brooks Orpik steamrolled concussion prone Bruin Loui Eriksson in the game’s opening shift, setting in motion a violent series of events, none of which were more controversial than Thornton’s sucker-punches on Orpik. The Pens blue-liner was knocked unconscious and wheeled off the ice on a stretcher. He has not played since. It should be noted that in a display of remorse, the Bruins tough guy sent Orpik a fruit basket, which is nice.
— Dan Saraceni (@cultureoflosing) December 13, 2013
One of the violent acts perpetrated during Saturday night’s cheap shot show, was a James Neal knee to the head of Bruins agitator Brad Marchand. The league was swift in its decision to punish Neal for his kneeing – sentencing the four-time offender to five-games, no pay, and no play. You can read about Neal’s suspension here.
There is a general consensus amongst hockey fans that one day the NHL’s chief of discipline, Brendan Shanahan, is going to throw the book at a player who acts as violently as Thornton did last week against the Penguins. However, when given opportunities this season, Shanahan has refrained from awarding any suspensions that can be deemed groundbreaking, or revolutionary in the plight to more effectively deter sucker-punching, kneeing, hitting-from-behind, or head-shots.
Because Thornton’s hearing with the NHL is of the in-person variety, he will definitely be suspended a minimum of five games, as is the standard when such meetings take place. However, due to the league’s history of treating every situation uniquely, while gathering several evidences on violent plays that warrant suspensions, there is no clear existing precedent available that allows us to wager an educated guess on the length of the suspension Thornton will receive within the next 24 hours.
In previous cases, the league has been strict in punishing sucker-punches. Todd Bertuzzi earned himself more than twenty-games for sucker-punching Steve Moore of the Colorado Avalanche in 2004. While with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Tie Domi once received a suspension of eight games for this sucker-punch on Ulf Samuelsson back in the ’90s (note a younger Brian Burke explaining the rationale behind his suspension of Domi). But both of these suspensions happened long ago. And, in Bertuzzi’s case, the attack was too obviously premeditated, whereas, in Domi’s case, the punch seemed to come from nowhere; not provoked by any body-check or earlier play like the one between Orpik and Eriksson, that clearly revved up the Bruins.
So, between eight and twenty? Looks like we’ll find out sometime tomorrow, unless the league comes to a decision and makes an announcement tonight about the Shawn Thornton suspension.
UPDATE: From Bruins writer Joe Haggerty:
— Joe Haggerty (@HackswithHaggs) December 13, 2013