Gary Bettman has once again had the final word on a player’s suspension appeal.
One week after the NHL commissioner upheld Boston Bruins forward Shawn Thornton’s 15-game suspension for his attack on Brooks Oprik of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Thornton said that he will not appeal that decision to an independent arbitrator.
“I’m still not happy with the amount of games I got,” Thornton said. “I know I’m not a victim, but I’m not happy with the amount of games I got. But I respect the decision and I’d rather just move on mentally and focus on getting ready for the 11th instead of focusing on getting ready for another hearing.”
“I’d rather not be a distraction around here. I’d rather focus on getting ready for January 11, which is 12 days out now. I’m not going to lie to you, it wasn’t an easy decision,” Thornton said. “I’ve been thinking about it for the last 36 hours, not much sleep, but I feel for the team it’s probably the right thing to do I guess at this point, not going through the whole process again for a third time.”
Thornton was suspended by the NHL after a Dec. 7 incident in which he skated directly to Orpik, slew-footed him and gave him several gloved punches to the head. Orpik was removed on a stretcher and was diagnosed with a concussion. The catalyst for the incident was a hit delivered by Orpik on Loui Eriksson of the Bruins, and his subsequent refusal to fight.
Thornton and the NHLPA appealed the 15-game ban on Dec. 14, and Bettman ruled on Dec. 24 that the suspension was upheld.
The NHLPA’s argument on behalf of Thornton was that he had played more than 500 games with any supplemental discipline; that Department of Player Safety chief Brendan Shanahan’s conclusion that this was “not a hockey play” was incorrect; and that comparable cases to that of Thornton resulted in shorter-term suspensions.
This is the second time Bettman has avoided a second appeal of a suspension, having previously upheld a 10-game ban of Patrick Kaleta of the Buffalo Sabres.
Here's where the NHL is smart an effective in its appeals defense: the waiting game. The incident was Dec. 7. The appeal was filed on Dec. 14. The decision to continue the appeal was made on Dec. 31. Thornton was eligible to return on Jan. 11. The way it's structured now, players are pushed so deep into lengthy suspensions that fighting a second appeal might seem pointless. Another hearing, another week ... by the time it's done, Thornton might have reduced it by a game, if that.