What Shawn Thornton did to Brooks Orpik tonight in Boston was a CRIME.
It’ll be treated as a penalty.
And that’s the problem with your NHL, Gary, where eye-for-an-eye is law of the land, embraced by the dinosaur wing of general managers who — incredibly, insanely, barbarically — think that allowing people to beat each other in the heads with fists can act as some sort of peacemaking mechanism.
Thornton got his 10-minute match penalty for what’s seen in this clip below. You saw it, and you don’t want to see it again, I know, but here it is along with some of the aftermath involved …
That’s a CRIME, Gary, not a penalty.
A CRIME that puts you behind bars and ruins your career, not one that costs you one-eighth or even a quarter of a regular seasons.
Give the on-ice refs credit. There’s absolutely nothing more they could issue Thornton than what they did. A 10-minute match penalty is as rare as it gets in hockey. That’s what Thornton got, along with the concurrent game misconduct.
But that’s where the hockey component should end. That’s where it must end.
If I hear one syllable about Bettman and Brendan Shanahan and crew going through Thornton’s priors — as if that matters — I’ll be even sicker to my stomach than I was when watching this CRIME committed on TV. Prior history isn’t weighed on the street when someone does exactly what Thornton did: Attack someone from behind, then continue to pound on them while prone. Maybe in sentencing, but that’s it. It isn’t weighed in the charge, and it isn’t weighed in delivering a verdict.
This is a CRIME.
I don’t want to hear, either, about how Thornton lacked sportsmanship. Because that’s giving him too much credit. This act had not only nothing to do with sportsmanship but also nothing to do with sports. Nothing.
It’s not a penalty. It’s not an unwritten rule that was violated.
This is a CRIME.
And this is on you, Gary, not anyone else, to have it treated that way.
You’ve slept through Ray Emery assaulting an unwilling counterpart goalie in Philadelphia, didn’t even bother to issue so much as a tiny fine or suspension while hiding behind the skirt that some new rule needed to be created. That was cowardly garbage, and you knew it at the time. You had to.
You’ve turned the other cheek while Semyon Varlamov has been charged by Denver Police with assaulting his girlfriend, a case that had the law convinced enough to press on but not to get the NHL’s commissioner to do so much as lift a finger to keep Varlamov from playing comparatively meaningless hockey games in the interim. That was cowardly and unethical garbage, and you know it. You have to.
Sorry, Gary, you’ve got nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. You’ve got Todd Bertuzzi and Donald Brashear all over again. At least I hope you do. I hope this makes it onto Oprah and the Today show and all the 24/7 news networks. Much as I love this great game and will hate to see it dragged through the mud, I can’t picture what else it would take at this point to get you out from under the desk to take meaningful action.
And what would be meaningful in this case?
I’ll make this simple and blunt: That player, Thornton, is no longer a player. He doesn’t deserve that designation. He’s forfeited it. He’s a CRIMINAL who committed a CRIME. And as such, he’s no longer welcome to play in the NHL in front of families and children, never mind just the regular fans who love the game and hate to see it sullied. Fans who hate that they don’t even feel comfortable watching the rest of this game tonight.
Thornton should be gone. For life.
And if the Boston authorities would like to have a word or two with him, you tell your New York lawyers to back off.
Set a real precedent.
For once in your woebegone tenure that’s seen three work stoppages, a relentless decrease in scoring and a merciless increase in wanton violence like this, do something to set a real precedent.
Show some guts.
Because if you don’t, someone will die in this game.
Someone will die, Gary, and the blood will be on your hands so much more than any miscreant like Thornton.
The joint venture between WPXI-TV and Trib Total Media continues Sunday night at around midnight — after NBC’s Sunday Night Football and the local news — with the latest episode of The Subway Final Word.
>> Who’s on the panel: I’ll be joined by Rob Rossi, the Trib’s Penguins beat man, and Mark Madden, top-rated radio host of 105.9 the X. The host will be WPXI-TV’s Bill Phillips.
>> What we’re talking about: Steelers, Penguins, Pitt hoops and more.
>> How to participate: Each week, we also take comments from viewers through 20-second videos you submit on The Final Word’s Facebook page, as well as comments to The Final World’s Twitter account
>> Where to watch: In addition to the regular broadcast on WPXI-TV, we have WPXI’s live online stream for Pittsburgh’s many out-of-town sports fans, as well as video podcasts available on both outlets’ Web sites.
>> The Friday column from Consol ambitiously tries to figure out what’s wrong with Kris Letang. And what to do about it.
Part of our talk yesterday …
Chris Kunitz keeps building a case for Sochi with two more goals to sink a sizzling San Jose team, even with Evgeni Malkin out. Rob Rossi has the game story.
Here’s a couple Qs I had for Jayson Megna about his ridiculous short-side shot over Antti Niemi …
Random randomness from the scene: You’d almost never know the Penguins beat the Sharks by four, so complimentary were the victors. “That’s one really good hockey team over there,” Sidney Crosby told me. “They just keep coming at you in waves.” … Crosby was still better than anyone on the San Jose side, nothing three assists and apparently doing a lot more. “There are so many things that Sid does that people don’t see, little things,” Kunitz said. “He did it all tonight. He dominated out there.” … Joe Vitale helped one goal with a hard center drive, another with a screen. No points for that, but teammates notice … There’s no way Olli Maatta is really 19, is there? How diligent are the birth records in Finland? … Marc-Andre Fleury was really sharp against a team that never stopped coming. Shouldn’t be overlooked. … I won’t expound on this, but let’s just say the Penguins saw something in Niemi early on they felt they could exploit. … This Robert Bortuzzo thing is getting silly. Kid needs to play. … The Penguins’ brief tribute to Tyler Kennedy was just right. A goal, a lifting of the Cup and a thank-you message. Fans seemed to appreciate it, and Kennedy definitely did when responding to the applause by raising his stick on the San Jose bench. Nice touch. That’s how Pittsburgh should welcome back its champions. … James Harrison, anyone?
>>The weekly chat will begin at 11:30 a.m. — a half-hour earlier than usual — because of an interview I’ve got set up at Steelers HQ. It’ll happen right here on the blog, as always, and you can post questions in the chat field as soon as you see the post.
A sampling of locker room reaction, by video producer Justin Labar …
Mike Wallace talks candidly about his year with Todd Haley, by Mark Kaboly.
Random randomness from the scene: If Tomlin was bugged by anything, he sure wasn’t letting it show. Bounced through the locker room at one point, beaming a big smile and shouted, “Let’s stick together!” I can’t and won’t assume what he meant, but it was in quite the upbeat tone. … The media scene around Ryan Clark was pretty funny in that he just pulls up a folding chair, leans back, and the cameras and microphones all come scurrying to hear what he was to say. … Didn’t realize I’d get the day’s money quote out of Clark when I asked simply if he found it fair that the NFL would delay its decision on docking draft picks: “It’s not supposed to be fair. It’s Roger Goodell. When has he been fair?” … LaMarr Woodley continues to make a sight of himself in the locker room, loudly berating or jabbing reporters as he passes through. Which is understandable, really, in light of the reporters being the ones responsible for a $61.5 million starting player losing his job. … Woodley was a limited participant in practice, by the way. Makes him iffy for a third straight game due to a soft-tissue injury, the kind that almost everyone in pro sports believes can be prevented through solid conditioning. … Cam Heyward, on how the Steelers avoided the Tomlin stuff: “We watch cartoons.” Never asked which ones. Terrible reporting. Woodley’s right.