firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “The Vent.”
We’re about to learn just how sorry Shawn Thornton really is. The NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced a 15-game suspension for Thornton’s brutal attack on Brooks Orpik.
Pierre LeBrun subsequently tweeted that Thornton is now deciding whether or not to appeal the suspension, which is a little curious in light of Thornton’s contrite post-game comments, including “I can’t say ‘I’m sorry’ enough.”
Does 15 games exceed the true boundary of what Thornton previously described as his boundless remorse?
If he appeals the suspension then we can draw one of three conclusions:
- He really did feel terrible in the immediate aftermath of the assault, but his view of his own actions has since changed.
- He was lying in the post-game media scrum.
- He was telling the truth and his feelings haven’t changed, but he is under pressure from someone (likely the NHLPA, his own agent and/or the Bruins organization) to appeal anyway.
Frankly, it would be hard to respect Thornton under any of these conditions. #1 makes him a liar – or at best a self-deluding moral relativist – who got caught in a moment of emotion-fueled truth; #2 makes him a liar who suffered no such moment; and #3 makes him weak; a pawn to those who claim to represent his interests but are instead, pushing him to do something he knows is wrong.
Like most people – like Thornton himself claimed to be – I am sickened by what Thornton did to the unsuspecting and therefore defenseless Orpik. That one event doesn’t have to define the man, though. If Thornton accepts his punishment with grace and honour then I will gladly extend the benefit of the doubt and view him as a good person who made a bad mistake. If he appeals, that interpretation is no longer available.
Brendan Shanahan decided that Thornton’s act was worth 15 games; the question now is whether Thornton believes 15 games is worth more than his integrity.
Reader Trent Baur writes about Brad Marchand:
Thornton's massive suspension and destruction of his reputation is rooted in his response to seeing super pest Brad Marchand's 4 star soccer flop from Neal's knee. Marchand types just drag everyone down to their level.
Reader LauMar writes about the Orpik hit:
So you need to fight to answer for clean hits? People arguing in favour of fighting for dumb ass reasons sound like they want to take hitting out of the game because apparently players are unable to control themselves and need to fight after every hit. Is that right? Fighting doesn’t make people not want to watch hockey - this stupid logic does.
Reader Justin Libano writes in about the Thornton incident:
As a Bs fan and someone who watches Thornton closely, up until that game against Pittsburgh I would stand behind Shawn Thornton being a player who exemplifies respect for the rules. I've seen him let up on opponents when they have their backs turned to him, and during fights if the other combatant's jersey covers his face, Shawn will let up and get the linesman involved right away. However this incident with Orpik makes me feel like my 10-year-old self watching WWF and witnessing a heel turn from my favorite Hulk Hogan or Ultimate Warrior - betrayal, emptiness and a lot of wondering where this game is going.
That's just the actions from on the ice. The words said by the NESN crew during the game from the booth put salt on the wounds. "If Orpik fought this wouldn't have happened" kinds of comments go well beyond Homerism. They have no place in the game just like what happened on the ice.
Finally, reader Luiz Santos on hockey fighting:
Hockey is the only professional sport that has violence and physicality as optional. This, in addition to your point of players needing to stand up for their team, leads to emotions can boil over more easily than in other sports since every hit against you is seen as a conscious choice. In football, tackling is the only way for a defense to operate. In boxing or MMA, the only way to win is to hurt your opponent. But when you can choose to either poke check or lay the body, finish your check or just skate by, there's no way for a player to not take hits personally and it eventually leads to tempers flaring.
This is why fighting is required. Violence is like sex, in that the foreplay of cross checking, slashing and trash talking must eventually lead to the coitus of fighting that would satiate both parties for the night. If not, the blue balls that would result just escalates the situation to rape, i.e. Thornton forcibly taking Orpik down, mounting him, then taking his satisfaction without consent.
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- Shawn Thornton