NEW YORK – The NHL’s Brendan Shanahan delivered one of the more stern penalties in his tenure as the league’s head of Discipline. On Saturday, he handed Boston’s Shawn Thornton a 15-game suspension for his attack on Brooks Orpik of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
For those unfamiliar, the video is embedded below for review.
The incident occurred in the first period in Boston last Saturday. The game had been chippy from the start. Orpik had delivered a clean (though some may view as it borderline) hit on Boston’s Loui Eriksson who left the game with concussion symptoms.
Thornton had taken it upon himself to act as judge, jury and executioner in righting a perceived wrong. Orpik has wanted no part of a fight. But Thornton pursued Orpik into the Pens’ defensive zone, slew-footed him to the ice and proceeded to use his head as means to break the TD Garden ice surface.
Twice Thornton appeared to pick Orpik up and then shove him back to the surface with Orpik’s head hitting the ice each time. This was followed by punches to the face.
“I feel awful,” Thornton said after the game. “It wasn’t my intention for that outcome. I know Brooksie. I’ve gotten to know him over the last seven years here. I skate with him in the summer and through the lockout. I’ve texted him a couple times. I feel awful. It’s not what I wanted to see or what anybody wanted to see.”
Shanahan’s decision to go to 15 games should be seen as a message to the league. Thornton’s behavior cannot be abided. That means the league and the NHL Players Association (NHLPA) must begin some dialogue with their members to curb the disregard and disrespect for players by players.
There are sufficient data available to now know that concussions resulting from chronic brain damage have long-term effects in athletes. An effort must be made by the NHL and NHLPA to make the game safer for its primary assets: the players.
The time for hand wringing is done. Shawn Thornton has seen to that. The issue too is what is the impact of this incident on the fans? Nearly 2 million hits have been recorded by YouTube.com on the official video of the incident. Is that purulent curiosity? Are viewers abhorred by the scene? Comments entered for the video clip suggest otherwise. This is what the fans want to see. And for that, the NHL and NHLPA need to get their acts in order and do something before catastrophe is the outcome.
As usual, the official statement was terse including the following:
\The incident occurred at 11:06 of the first period. Thornton was assessed a match penalty for violating NHL Rule 46.15.
Under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement and, based on his average annual salary, Thornton will forfeit $84,615.45. The money goes to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.
The video from Shanahan’s office is posted here.