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Instant column: NHL declares open season for assaults

By Dejan Kovacevic | Trib Total Media

So Shawn Thornton got 15 games for criminally assaulting Brooks Orpik.

That’ll prompt all kinds of gnashing of teeth and parsing over precedents and comparisons to events to which this particular penalty has no actual resemblance. Meaning that it wasn’t in any way shape or form a hockey play. It was a blindside attack during a stoppage on an unsuspecting player, who was then slew-footed to the ice, then punched twice, including at least once while already unconscious.

Good luck compiling a meaningful list of precedents for that.

It’s sickening, but it’s also sickeningly predictable. That’s the no-guts NHL of Gary Bettman and Brendan Shanahan. Wait as long as possible to make a ruling, hoping some of the anger dies down and Oprah stops calling, then put out a sentence that very carefully massages both sides, not just the guilty one. Wouldn’t want to stir the pot.

The Penguins thought maybe 20?

The Bruins thought maybe 10?

Hey, let’s go 15!

Here’s what I take from it: If I’m an NHL general manager and I’m completely ruthless — oh, they exist — and I really want to take out an opposing player, or even just give them the scare of a lifetime, I’m calling up some random thug from the minor leagues today. From there, I’m sending that thug after Sidney Crosby or Alexander Ovechkin or some other star, and I’m having them do exactly what Thornton did to Orpik. Step for step, slew for slew, slug for slug.

Because that thug, who means nothing to me, will get 15 games. And my team will get nothing. And my hated opponent will be without their star for … hey, maybe forever!

Over the top?

Not for anyone who remembers the Islanders calling up their entire minor-league affiliate for that Long Island massacre a couple years ago. It can and will happen. And the NHL apparently will be content to penalize said player with 15 games, said team with nothing at all.

Not fair to compare with Thornton, who is allegedly a really swell guy who delivered a really heartfelt apology?

Wow, people are actually bringing that up right now. As if that means a whit. As if the greater concern here is possibly not doing right by nice guys who assault people as opposed to setting a real and meaningful precedent against the actual assault.

Sensational logic there, huh?

Maybe it’s worth another look, in case the NHL succeeded in desensitizing some by holding off so long on a ruling …

You know, I could do this all day, you could do this all day, and I’m sure the broader hockey media will have a field day over it. Pittsburgh fans will think it’s too lenient. Boston fans will cite James Neal and Brad Marchand and Matt Cooke and Marc Savard and probably Bill Buckner, too, and anything else that they can to distract from the assault, which isn’t comparable to any of those save, of course, for Buckner’s assault on New Englanders’ psyche. Most of the rest of the hockey world will do little more than look at where this suspension ranks on the list with all the others.

But that’s the problem: This wasn’t like the others. This was like Todd Bertuzzi on Steve Moore, and absolutely nothing else in recent NHL history, and Bertuzzi got 20 games even though his assault at least happened during play. This wasn’t about dealing specifically with Thornton. It was about dealing with the act.

That’s how it should have been treated, had anyone in charge been more concerned about preventing a repeat as opposed to trying to stir up as little controversy as possible on a Saturday afternoon. Oh, and let’s issue a suspension that has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not Orpik returns, just so this can be over and done in as tidy a manner as possible.

Let’s check back on this topic when someone dies.

UPDATE 4:13 p.m.: Here is the official suspension video from the ironically named NHL Player Safety department, courtesy of Shanahan.

This might be the saddest statement of all. Blow by blow, Shanahan takes us through a powerfully accurate accounting of the entire incident, with at least one angle I hadn’t previously seen that made it look so flagrantly premeditated. It moves, it rattles, it disturbs … and then it ends with Bettman and Shanahan taking the cowards’ route and turning away.

Here’s the Trib’s news coverage, from Josh Yohe in Detroit.

The big winner today: Concussion lawyers everywhere!

Have at it, gentlemen. The NHL just cast down the gauntlet today.

Author: Dejan Kovacevic

Dejan Kovacevic, a lifelong Pittsburgher, is an award-winning sports columnist for Trib Total Media covering the Steelers, Penguins, Pirates, Pitt and, recently, his fourth Olympics in Sochi, Russia. He also appears on WPXI-TV's 'Subway Final Word’ and hosts a weekly show on TribLIVE Radio. For 2011, he was named one of the country's top four columnists by the AP Sports Editors. For 2012, he was named one of the country's top three columnists by the National Headliners. For 2013, he was named the state's top columnist by the Keystone Press Awards and top columnist in Western Pennsylvania by the Golden Quills.


  1. J Walter Weatherman says:

    I’m sure you’ll love the headline on the ESPN NHL home page: “Throwing The Book At Him” with the subtext: “Shawn Thornton’s 15-game suspension for his attack on Brooks Orpik is a clear message that the NHL isn’t going to tolerate scenes like the ones in Boston.”

  2. WM Ryan says:

    This was so much like Todd Bertuzzi on Steve Moore because Brooks Orpik has a broken neck. That’s right.

  3. Naje says:

    DK for NHL commish…

    That’s on my Christmas wish list.

  4. Naje says:

    Thornton / NHL… cowards. Neanderthal. Cro-magnum. Non compus mentus.

    Disgusting. Might as well start fixing games and act like the WWE.

  5. theplanisworking says:

    Boston Strong, huh?

    I was expecting only a 6-8 game suspension, given Bettmans history of incompetence. 15 games? Not nearly enough.

    This is a huge victory for the Boston Bruins, and neanderthal owners, GM’s, and fans. The blood lust, and criminal element should sleep well tonight. Why change the league for the better, when you have a certain faction to plaease?

    Also missing is any fine/punishment for Julien, for repeatedly sending Thornton over the boards to try to get Orpik. He couldnt get orpik front-on, so he did it from behind.

    Dejan is right, only a death will change things, and I wouldnt even bet THAT would change anything.

  6. aaron says:

    The NHL is a garbage league with spineless fools at the helm of the ship and a myriad of mindless bafoons running teams with everyone abiding this ridiculous tough guy barroom brawler on skates ethos.

    Instead of shootouts the teams should settle the game with an MMA style fight at center ice.

    What a joke.

  7. Wild Bill says:

    A great response, Dejan, to a pathetic response by the NHL. As you point out, it doesn’t cost the Bruins much at all to have had a player do this. Could be considered a decent investment, even. Costly for Thornton, but hey, that’s his problem.

    How can a league of players, whose only leverage in their business is their ability to stay on the ice and perform, be so willing to let themselves be used this way?? When they take each other out, injured or suspended, they lose together. So little respect for one another, I cannot understand this version of competition.

  8. Wild Bill says:

    What did you think was fair, WM?

  9. Arriba Wilver says:

    Actually, Mr. Ryan, the overall theme here has been to focus on the act itself and not on how badly somebody gets hurt. And that even predates this incident.

    But welcome to the Blog.

  10. Joey_Pittsburgh says:

    Listen as you read:

    The NHL exists to protect farm boys from Regina who don’t have the skill chops to hang with Russians, Swedes, and whomever else is used to skating on international rinks. Bettman answers to the owners and money guys in Toronto, Montreal, etc, not the ESPN highlights crowd. They want their boys playing the game, and that means ‘the code’, that means fighting, that means clutch and grab because if you open the game up, it opens up for Europeans, and they don’t want that.

    Fifteen games is a joke (no homer) and frankly, Neal should have gotten at least 10. But they don’t care. As long as it happens on the ice, it’s kosher. Let the boys live by the code and we’ll protect them.

    But you know what, call it like it is. Crosby (and others) who are the face of the league take the easy way out and don’t condemn it because they have to share the locker room with the same goons. Until the stars mandate the game they–and everyone south of the 48th parallel–want, we’re going to be subjected to garage league.

    My pet theory is the league wants to make sure scoring stays down so NOBODY ever comes within shouting distance of Gretzky’s records. Hence clutch and grab during Lemieux’s years. Imagine what #87 and #71 (and #8) could do on a larger rink w/o obstruction. But I digress….

    It’s only a short matter of time before we are talking about the “Unfortunate Denny Pratt Tragedy”

  11. theplanisworking says:

    I have read some people want Orpik to file criminal charges on his own.

    Would that be allowed by the NHL?
    What I mean is, would the league “fire” Orpik if he went that route? He would be going outside the CBA? I honestly dont know what would happen.

  12. Eli says:

    20 games would have been the starting point for me…its the lack of appropriate length of suspensions that let people like Thornton and Trevor Gillies even see NHL ice.

  13. Rbilak says:

    - if I am Mario and Shero, step 1, era quire Big Mac, Step 2, play every game first shift with Sid. Outrage.

    – the code, one in which Moore fights Cooke, then after complying with the code is almost killed. I don’t hear the NHL talking idiots question this

    – Julien gets nothing. The guy puts Thorton on the ice every shift Orpik is on. If that is not intentional nothing is.

    – the NHL will fail, the lawsuits will be coming due to deaths of some of those same so-called code guys. They have learned nothing from the NFL.

    – Thorton should appeal, they will drop it down. The magnitude of this crime outweighs if he did it once or not. 15 games, might as well make it one.

    – Sad day in Sports. Great day in Philly.

  14. “This was like Todd Bertuzzi on Steve Moore.” Not sure these two are similar, other that the chicken-heart way they assaulted —— from behind, without notice. Bertuzzi used an intentional stick to the head.

    Not excusing Thornton AT ALL . . . . but I doubt if he thought his slew foot would result in Orpik hitting his head on the ice and knocking himself out. He did stop punching Orpik when he realized Orpik was out cold. Yet that’s much different than hitting an unsuspecting guy in the head with your stick

    How many times when we were kids (or even last week!) did one guy kneel behind an unsuspecting person and another come and push him backward? That’s apparently supposed to be “funny.” I have seen guys need stitches in the back of their head from that kind of “horseplay.” Stupid, but it happens.

    I think the real problem here is fighting in hockey. No question I rush back to the TV when I hear there is a fight ongoing———it’s animalistic and colosseum-like. Yet it has no place in a true sport! If I want to watch boxing, I’ll watch boxing. If I want to watch animals, I’ll watch WWE.

    I turn hockey on to watch the greatest players in the world use a stick to control a galvanized piece of rubber on ice. They are amazing what they can do with that piece of rubber. I love the artistry. I love those like Craig Adams, an intelligent Harvard grad, who intentionally allows his body to be pelted by that rubber. I love the teamwork of a tic-tac-toe goal. I love the hand-eye coordination to redirect a 95 mile an hour missile into the net.

    The foolish neanderthal actions of Thornton are going to continue, with voices in the wilderness (read: voices from the town of the player hurt) until fighting is eliminated from hockey.

    The best hockey in the world? The Olympics, where there is NO fighting.
    The best hockey of every season? The Playoffs, where there is almost NO fighting.

    15 games. 10 games. 25 games. 40 games. None of that makes a difference. Get rid of fighting in hockey, and you will accomplish something! Until then, just arguing over spilt milk.

    DK: You’re thinking of McSorley-Brashear, Groat. The Bertuzzi-Moore incident didn’t involve a stick.

  15. Mike A says:

    Seems lenient. 10 games auto 4 impulsively leaving bench 2 join fight. This was intent 2 injure over repeated shifts. Premeditated.

  16. chris ferrara says:

    It’s a joke Mr. Thornton gets to count the three games he already has sat out toward his 15 games. Brendan Shanahan for a HOF is a joke as discipline czar. Until the NHL starts to fine the NHL teams the pattern will never change. Yesterday we had Brian Burke quoted as saying he wanted to see his team play with more toughness. Hey Brian did you never think that maybe the fans don’t want it.

  17. RealDeal says:

    Assault is assault, and the NHL did NOT set a precedent for this. Shame on them for not making other players know that what Thornton did is unacceptable. #Fire Bettman

  18. WM Ryan says:

    I don’t know that there was ever any amount of games that everybody would agree was “fair,” but 15 games isn’t a slap on the wrist. As far as tying the length of suspension to the severity of injury, that never made any sense to me.

    Not too sure 15 games is any lighter of a message from the NHL than 5 games for a deliberate kick to the face.

  19. Elisa says:

    Completely agree, Dejan. This doesn’t send a message.

    Not sure what I can say here that you haven’t already said in the article but it’s disturbing to me that no one is being fined here … for continuously sending Thornton after Orpik and even more for an assault that would easily have you arrested if it weren’t in an NHL arena. People are saying guys go down punching each other all the time and it’s just unfortunate that Orpik got hurt.

    Will it just be “unfortunate” when someone gets paralyzed or worse?

    Absolutely disgusting.

    It’s not enough regardless of the severity of the injury. It makes me so angry that any comment defending this incident would probably make me cry. But I thank you for writing an article that stands out, something that everyone should read because again, you are 100 percent correct here.

  20. Pucknutz says:

    For that to even have a chance, the Pens organization would have to break ranks with the NHL and file charges on Orpik’s behalf. I am not sure if they can even do that legally – but it would certainly stir the pot real good!

  21. Brian C says:

    Let’s just hope that this will be a moot point in a couple of years with a ban on fighting in place and therefore making irrelevant any precedent-setting punishments put in place prior involving assault.

  22. Dan1283 says:

    I honestly thought the Emery-Holtby incident looked and was far worse. That got nothing. So I didn’t have any expectation for this beyond maybe eight games.

    DK: Yeah, but, Dan … there was NO RULE against that! Get with it!

  23. Bertuzzi didn’t attack Moore with his stick. He skated up behind him during play and started punching him from behind. Moore was out before he fell and suffered four broken vertebrae in the fall and scrum afterward.

    You are thinking of Marty McSorley hitting Donald Brashear in the head from behind with his stick.

  24. nick says:

    Loved the article You took the words right out of my mouth! It was like watching a beat down video on utube. Only 15 games is ridiculous for the crime that took this long to come up with a punishment. Smh

  25. Jim S. says:

    It would not surprise me if Orpik is out longer than 15 games. That is, what, a month or so? Let’s say Orpik misses 20 games. This thug is back 5 games before that. His suspension of 15 games should begin when Orpik’s time missed ends. That would send the message.

  26. Albert says:

    3:36 PM on Saturday. Open up Not a word, but a nice article about Kunitz and the new jersey.

  27. Daquido_Bazzini says:

    So … you’ve got one league that barely lets you tackle a guy … and another league that basically allows attempted murder. I’m confused.

  28. Albert says:

    Why couldn’t he. I hope this doesn’t happen, but play out this scenario: Orpik never plays again. He would be a UFA next summer, who knows 3 years, 20-25 million? Think there’s a lawyer who’d take that on? Thornton was acting in the employ of the Boston Bruins at that time. Think they have the cash? I’d love to see him sue. Wait two years if he’s playing, and take them for every penny he can get. Take the league, too.

  29. Barb says:

    I am not surprised at all at the length of the suspension. I agree with Dejan that nothing will be remedied unless an unfortunate player dies at the hand of another. Bettman, Shanhan and Jacobs are in the same league as Thornton, Julien and Bertuzzi……barbarians.

  30. Wild Bill says:

    I’m not about to argue in favor of Neal or what he did, but here’s the thing: the Pens coaching staff did not send Neal out on the ice looking for a chance to knee an opponent in the head. Neal stupidly took that upon himself. There is little doubt that Thornton was sent out to get Orpik, and as we all saw, he did.

    I hope it’s clear that if the players in the NHL can’t show respect for each other, the teams and the league aren’t about to do that for them.

  31. sdotts136 says:

    I get that 15 games is a big deal in the bizarro world that bettman and shanahan live in, but that is the point isn’t it? That 15 or 20 games is the most the NHL will go? What I don’t understand is how the owners are ok with this. If someone is killed or paralyzed (again) on the ice and the victim sues the NHL claiming that the NHL was aware of the danger and disregarded it, the jury could award punitive damages in the hundreds of millions. Owners have so much invested, why would they risk the risk of loss of public support which = ticket sales, the money they would need to pay the victim, and, worst case scenario, the folding of the league and complete loss of their investment over something so stupid as fighting? Do they really think the risk of lost popularity if they get rid of fight is greater than those other risks? It just doesn’t make any sense.

  32. Your right. Sorry.

    My error does not diminish my feeling that fighting has got to go.

  33. Scott M says:

    Once again Gary Bettman capitulated to the guys paying his salary rather than taking player safety in to account. Why was the league so intent on bringing a “clean” record in to their decision making process here? A first time murderer hadn’t killed anyone before, so should they be let off more easily? Same thing with assault– “Your honor, I never beat anyone to within an inch of their life before, so you need to go easy on me.” Somehow that argument never gets made.

    Something else to consider here–why wasn’t Julien punished as well? He consciously made the decision to put Thornton on the ice against Orpik to get retribution. Last time I remember, if a person pays someone to kill or injure someone else they are just as guilty (murder for hire anyone?) And I don’t buy the whole “Julien didn’t know Thornton would do what he did” argument either, it’s the same thing as putting a visitor to a zoo in the cage with a tiger who, up until then, had never attacked anyone before, and then having the nerve to be surprised when it does maul the visitor or even to claim the visitor “aggravated the tiger.”

    If the NHL really wants to send a message to everyone that this type of violent behavior will not be tolerated they will start to punish the teams as well as the players. If a player is suspended, the coach loses a roster spot for the length of the suspension, so in Thornton’s case, the Bruins would only be able to dress 17 players for 15 games, so not only do they lose Thornton (or whomever) but they also have to play short-handed. This should/would have the following effects: If the player really is “looking out for his team” then he shouldn’t want to put his team down a roster spot by taking a stupid penalty, if indeed it is team first. The coaches would not employ their players in such a way as to set up a potential suspendable situation for fear of losing the player and a roster spot. Once it happened a few times, I think GMs and owners would think twice about employing the kind of players that would hurt their teams, and once those types of players find they can’t get work they’ll have to change their game or be unemployable. And as mentioned above, GMs wouldn’t be able to call up nobodies from the minors to sacrifice when it will hurt them after the fact.

    Let’s not forget something for all the Bruins fans out there–Matt Cooke, who was a reckless, dangerous, and dirty player for many years, was among many who ran around looking to make big (and now classified illegal) hits. When he hit Marc Savard, there was nothing in the rule book that made what he did illegal. It was stupid, horrible, etc, but within the rules. The NHL has since made hits like those illegal with the attempt to deter those kinds of hits and the injuries associated with them. It hasn’t worked. If the NHLPA isn’t going to bring its players together for a Kumbaya moment where everyone pledges not to hurt each other (which I still can’t believe hasn’t happened yet), then the NHL, specifically Gary Bettman, must go against history and break from the owners in order to keep the image of the league from being tarnished. Punishing the player doesn’t go far enough, as there will always be another Shawn Thornton waiting in the wings (or the AHL) to be called up to fill the role. Clean up the system, punish EVERYONE involved. Let the players and the fans know that speed and skill are the backbone of the game, not “enforcers” like Shawn Thornton.

  34. Bjm says:

    Only 15 games…sends a “great” message to all the youth hockey kids out there…”Kids, keep playing this great sport…just, ummm, watch the Olympics as the model, and not our league…but buy our stuff”…

  35. Time already served is time already served. Everywhere.

  36. theplanisworking says:

    I love the sport of Hockey.
    Incidents, and “discipline” like this make me not want anything to do with the sport.

  37. Pucknutz says:

    Anybody got an email address for anyone at the NHL league level.?
    Prolly won’t do any good – but I would like send them my two cents on this issue.

  38. You are . . .
    You’re . . .

    Geez, I should have stayed in bed. I’ve used up a week’s worth of mistakes in two posts!

  39. Wild Bill says:

    Hear ya, Hippo. I look more and more forward to the college hockey I have tickets for. And, this pathetic league just locked us all out not that long ago. Why not invest ourselves in Olympic and college hockey?

  40. CTC says:

    25 games should have been the minimum. League continues to fall short in setting tone for unacceptable behavior. They need to start fining the organization, and taking away both cap room and/or draft picks. Department of Player Safety is clueless, or Bettman is afraid of Jacobs. Maybe it’s both. Either way, Shawn Thornton is a punk who got off easy. Queue the disingenuous “I accept responsibility for my actions.” Oh, and whiny hypocrite Claude Julien is culpable in all of this.

  41. Send your mother a Christmas card. Your effort will be better rewarded.

  42. JohninOshkosh says:

    So I guess the sentencing guidelines for the NHL read like this :

    1. Play stoppage assaults resulting in concussions: 15 games.

    2. Play stoppage assaults resulting in comas: 30 games.

    3. Play stoppage assaults resulting in death: 45 games.

    Ridiculous. Gary Bettman can’t go to the bathroom without being afraid of Donald Fehr. Pathetic.

    Strong and meaningful column on your part though, Dejan.

  43. Wild Bill says:

    Maybe DK or one of you could figure out how to send this entire thread to them?

  44. Garry H says:

    Gotta love this… article.
    Includes quotes from Can Neely saying how sorry he was for Shawn, that many were surprised how long the ban was, and insinuating that the hit wasn’t all that bad because Orpik is already practicing.

  45. Pucknutz says:

    Prolly right Groat – but it would make me feel just a tiny bit better.

  46. sdotts136 says:

    I get that 15 games is a big deal in the bizarro world that Bettman and Shanahan live in, but that’s the point isn’t it? That 15 or 20 games is farthest the NHL is willing to go? What I don’t understand is how the owners are OK with this. If someone is killed or paralyzed (again) on the ice and the victim or his family sues the NHL, claiming that the league created the danger, was aware of it, and disregarded it, the jury could award the victim or his family punitive damages on top of the actual damages that could be in the hundreds of millions of dollars (think of big tobacco, or the end of Run Away Jury.) Owners have so much invested, why would they risk the loss of public support and interest aka ticket sales, the vast sum of money they would owe the victim, and, worst case scenario, the folding of the league and complete loss of their several hundred million dollar investment over something so stupid as fighting? Do they really think that the risk of lost popularity because they get rid of fighting is greater than those other risks? I just doesn’t make any sense, from any perspective.

  47. J Walter Weatherman says:

    Imagine if this assault had happened in NFL, MLB, or NBA. I can’t imagine how the offending person would not be suspended for at least half of the season. Given the NFL’s obsession with suspensions, it would probably be a full season. Granted, these leagues don’t allow fighting, so it’s a bit of an apples to oranges comparison. However, as DK noted, the premeditated nature of the assault is different than typical fighting or head-hunting during the course of play. Therefore, the reaction between each league should be more apples to apples in this case.

    Take the suspension angle out of it, and just imagine the media coverage of a similar event in the NFL, MLB, or NBA. Speaks to a bigger issue with the NHL, doesn’t it?

  48. theplanisworking says:

    John, I would say Bettman is afraid of Jacobs, Snider et al. a lot more.
    I know Bettman works for the owners, be he is terrified of them.

    But your point is a very valid one.

  49. tpbco says:

    I really do not think it’s Fehr…try jacobs. Regardless of the majority of player’s feelings about thornton, they had to be concerned about this. Some, like Daniel Alfredsson have spoken out against it.

  50. Anchor says:

    DK, good read. Overall, am I shocked at the length — no. Disappointed– yes. The Commish is bowing to the owners with the largest pocketbooks.

  51. theplanisworking says:

    Final thought:

    Despite how well said, thoughtful, and insightful Dejan’s columns were the night this happened, and today…………..

    does anyone outside of Pens fans, or outside of Pittsburgh really care?
    You see so many quotes about how Orpik “embellished”, how Orpik should have fought Orpik, Thornton got too much of a punishment, etc………..

    I guess I just dont understand the neanderthal way of thinking.
    And, I have a bad feeling this will be quickly forgotten, nationally.
    We will remember it here, but what about in Toronto? Montreal? Detroit?
    Will be interested to hear the pre-game tonight for their thoughts.

  52. tpbco says:

    The fact that Brooks went back on the ice is being blown way out of proportion. I am not sure why the Pens did this prior to the announcement, although I’m not sure that would have mattered. They are looking for excuses and justifications.

    Seems that the Boston media is carrying more weight nationally.

    Not a knock against ya, DK … just what appears to be the facts.

  53. Arriba Wilver says:

    John–I don’t think Fehr’s even an issue in this. JMO.

  54. Alan says:

    That is something I’ve been advocating for a long time. That suspensions start from the day the injured player comes back.

  55. AJ says:

    The human brain is priceless. Yet the NHL has decided the human brain is only worth a measly meaningless 15 regular season games. The lawsuit jury will certainly agree with the players lawyers that the brain is worth a lot more that 15 games.

    I agree with you 100% in everything you wrote. And you ended it perfectly. The big winner today are the concussion lawyers for the players. Those players deserve every penny they are now going to get. The NHL will pay for this lenient suspension. The NHL will pay for not suspending anyone for the playoff line brawl last year. The NHL will pay for not suspending Emory. The NHL will pay for not voluntarily cleaning up its act. Good, I hope the NHL loses millions upon billions in the settlement. They deserve to lose it. THe players deserve to get it. The NHL can’t possibly defend itself as being concerned for player safety when they allow fighting and allow these attacks to take place.

    If the NHL ceases to clean up, I will cease to be an NHL fan the day Sid and Geno retire.

  56. Alan says:

    Errr … You mean thugs like Shawn Thornton

  57. Joni says:

    I agree 100%, AJ.

  58. tpbco says:

    What this whole sad outcome is saying, IS that the NHL mindset is AND that a significant % of its fans is that Brooks should have fought him.

    Somehow they forgot that Scott Stevens fought less than once a year on the average.

  59. Mike A says:

    NHLPA plays a big role in mitigating suspensions. Collectively bargained in CBA. Check transcript of Kalata appeal for their twisted priorities.

  60. David says:

    More than I expected but still not enough. After Orpik declined the fight, Thornton clearly decided “This guy is going to hurt for what he did whether he knows it or not.” I just don’t see how somebody with that level of deliberation can get by based on him not doing something like it before and a bogus “that wasn’t my intention” after Orpik is in the hospital. It is easy to see his actions were exactly what he intended and his horror at what he did afterwards doesn’t change that

  61. Arriba Wilver says:

    If the NHL really wanted to make a statement, you take the action and then if an an arbitrator overturns it, so be it. The attempt sends a message, and you keep challenging it.

    You think this punishment was dictated by fear of a challenge by the union? I don’t.

  62. macchamp74 says:

    NHL Network debating whether Thornton should appeal suspension. Voice of the sport?

  63. Pucknutz says:

    “does anyone outside of Pens fans, or outside of Pittsburgh really care?”

    Most likely not. By Monday this will be old news.
    And to be quite honest, if this had happened in another game somewhere else I would likely just have tut-tuted a bit and said something like “Wow that was really bad – he outa get life for that”. “NHL really outta clean up its act.”
    Not that I would not have cared — but not my ox being gored – couple days and I likely would have moved on to something else.
    I suspect that the rest of the hockey word will do the same thing.

  64. tpbco says:

    Just saw the “offical” explanation fron the NHL.

    Said all the right things, so they obviously think they done good.

  65. pattonbb says:

    Great point, plan. Everything I’ve read from outside of Pittsburgh calls 15 games “appropriate”.

    Seems pretty light to me, but I’m not a diehard hockey fan.

  66. Cara says:

    If they wanted to send a message it should have started at the rest of the season and playoffs. That sounds harsh but so is what Thornton did. This doesn’t even send a message to the Bruins organization or their fans (who are still hiding behind actions by Matt Cooke and James Neal to rationalize Thornton’s actions). It shouldn’t have been about what Thornton’s history was or what other players have gotten in the past, this should have been about setting precedence for the future. I don’t watch any other sport but the NFL seems to have a reasonable handle on discipline, can you imagine something like this happening in an NFL game? Nothing even close has happened, this from a league of murderers, drug dealers, and domestic violence abusers. The NHL is it’s own worst enemy. Maybe if it dealt seriously with incidents like Thornton, Emery and Varlamov the sport would grow.

    Now I hear Thornton may appeal his suspension? Really? If he was really apologetic and a “good guy” he would accept the suspension in deference to the severe injury he caused to Orpik.

    As for the Bruins, THEY are the most arrogant organ-i-zation in the league. They’re also going to play the victims now that the suspension is official, poor Boston will have to be without Thornton for 15 whole games. They act tough as long as they are the ones dishing out the hits (legal or not), as soon as another team does the same it’s poor Boston. Let’s look at the hit by Orpik that they’re all so incensed about, a clean check to a player that may or may not have touched the puck, at worst a 2 minute minor. Did all of Boston suddenly develop amnesia? They make that hit all the time without a penalty called, anyone remember Paille on Crosby, Sid was no where near the puck when Paille drilled him. What about Chara sucker punching Sid who didn’t even have his hands free? What about Marchand boarding Neal and only getting a minor? Oh well that’s just the Bruins playing tough and every other team is just supposed to take it. Maybe if the league and officials dealt with this stuff dirty plays like Neal’s wouldn’t happen (that does not excuse Neal’s actions however). Apparently allowing obstruction back into the game isn’t making it safer either. Oh and who orchestrated that along with last season’s lockout? The Bruins’ owner. Funny how that gives his team an advantage with how they play.

  67. cherokee23 says:

    …..and we’re not happy with either one….Irony!

  68. cdbrewer says:

    I am outside Pittsburgh and not a Pens fan.
    I agree this is way too light (I was hoping for 40 to send a message)…BUT

    1.) kneeing a head or jabbing a guy with a stick is also an assault outside of sports – you can’t apply rule of law in sports;
    2.) Hockey has such ambivalence about toughness – celebrate Bobby Clarke and the Bullies? – and retaliative fighting. Baseball has similar problems with throwing at hitters. What is the line?;
    3.) the NHL is caught in the midst of attempting a transition to a more beautiful game without alienating fans…AGAIN

    None of this is to stick up for 15 games, and I love the idea above of somebody suing the Bruins and league for Orpik.
    Also, NO IDEA how the NHL can ignore the NFL’s shifting for safety. THAT is the shocker for me.

  69. Arriba Wilver says:

    I hope he does. And gets slammed. I’d be shocked if he does. (I’ve been shocked before).

  70. JohninOshkosh says:


    You may be right, but this stinks of behind closed door pow wows with Fehr and his associates to me.

    Correct if I’m wrong, but this is the most serious on ice incident since Fehr took the NHLPA reigns. And, this is the sanction ?

    Whether he is cowardly in the face of owners or the union, I guess it doesn’t really matter. Bettman bowed to someone, that’s for certain.

  71. theplanisworking says:

    Um, Orpik should have fought Thornton.
    But I bet if Orpik fought himself, the NHL would suspend him for the whole year.

  72. Ogie Oglethorpe says:

    Lock Thornton and Kneel in the same cell. Problem solved.

  73. cherokee23 says:

    I like the roster spot idea!

  74. Arriba Wilver says:

    On the one hand, John, I don’t care what Fehr or the Union think. And this is the Fehr who fought tooth and nail against PED testing, until Congress got involved (think about that for a second again).

    But, on the other, from what I’ve been reading over the last week the Hockey Establishment was not seeing this like most of us do (It was orpik’s fault for not fighting, Orpik’s hit was not legit, etc.). And that wasnt coming from the Union. They didn’t need Fehr. That’s a cop-out, to me, to do what they wanted.

  75. Eric Bowser says:

    NHL acknowledges what Thornton did wasn’t a hockey play, skated across the ice, grabs Orpik, slew foot, and two “short” punches that results in an injured player.

    Somehow, that results in 15 games.

    Bertuzzi did less of an act but because his transgression almost killed Moore, so he got a more lengthy suspension. So Typical of the NHL.

    Nothing surprises me anymore in the NHL with a bunch of cement head goons in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Montreal and Toronto ruining the league because they think goonism is a way to respect ‘the code’.

    The league and the men who “run” the sport have no interest growing the game, they want it to be the way it is now. They don’t want anyone breaking records, they want clutch and grab, dump and chase, and fighting.

    Who wants skill with buffoons like Don Cherry preaching their religion on Hockey Night in Canada?

    For once, it would have been nice for Sidney Crosby to take a leadership role and speak out. Instead, he’s confined to himself and his third line grinder mentality.

    Where is Mario Lemieux in all of this? Absentee owners don’t work. Take a stand already.

    We heard Bylsma… he thinks Thornton is honest and this was “lengthy”. The next time I believe anything out of his mouth that is the right way to play hockey will be a first.

    Shero will probably say nothing at 6:00 PM, how could he. He’s cut from the cloth of the Flyers goonism, great timing as Shero recognized those teams in the 70s during his father’s induction/acceptance speech.

    Funny thing is, the only time anyone in hockey takes a stand, it is Gary Bettman and the only time he does it is when money is on the line for the owners.

    Some day, a young innocent player will be killed and then what…

  76. chethejet says:

    And how many games did Sean Thornton get for beating up Squire Danaher in The Quiet man?

  77. tpbco says:

    Maureen O’Hara

  78. Pens Fan still says:

    DK why don’t you ask Mario on down some TOUGH Questions about the Verbal Vomit Eunuch Shero just spewed out & ask Mario on down why they sit idly by as this team is going to lose in playoffs again for a 5 straight season with arguably the best 2 players in the world

  79. hockeymonster says:

    Only league that doesn’t care about protecting their stars.

  80. Rbilak says:

    - .? Why isn’t Thorton made team Captain for Canada in Olympics? Sounds like a reasonable replacement for Sid.

    – What a stand by Shero. Lot of good people in jail for making a mistake, problem is this was no mistake. Hey Shero get Sid and Geno some goons, sick of PK Suppan and Clarkson running them. Message from NHL 15 games to put out star player!

  81. george pavlik says:

    My suspension would have been one of two things. One he gets as long as Orpik is out (I know that is impossible but that is a just ruling). Two he gets rest of the season and pay a steep fine and donates charity too what Orpik likes and in Orpiks name so he gets the write off. And I have loved this sport for 29 years that full out assault made me sick too my stomach.

  82. Aaron says:

    Boy who cried wolf. Funny how penguins fans quickly forget about matt cooke, aka the dirtiest player of this generation

  83. Jandy says:

    And how quickly you forget how he turned his entire way of playing around, to he could play by the rules. Let’s see some of these other thugs do that.

  84. Drew71 says:

    “The Penguins thought maybe 20?
    The Bruins thought maybe 10?
    Hey, let’s go 15!”

    So the Pens wanted “maybe 20″, whatever “maybe” means.

    So all this bitterness over five games. Five. 5. V.

    I’m not buying.

    So let me be clear because I suspect this post will be TOTALLY misunderstood.

    I am disappointed with 15.

    But there is a world of difference between “disappointed” and “sickening”.

    Far more, in my opinion, than what can be justified by the difference between 15 and 20.

    “Let’s check back on this topic when someone dies.”

    Yeah. THAT’S not over-the-top raw red meat for the fans of the home team.

  85. Arriba Wilver says:


  86. BigE says:

    Only if he keeps writing for the Trib …

  87. OldSoldier21 says:

    “What did you think was fair, WM?”

    I know this wasn’t addressed to me, but I would like to answer.

    The “fair thing” would have been an arrest, mug shots, finger prints, a bail hearing followed by a trial by a jury. If found guilty, an appropriate sentence would have been a hefty fine, court costs and restitution of medical expenses and a period of incarceration to be served in the state prison, followed by parole – then the NHL could suspend him. It was a cowardly attack – kind of like the “knock out” game. Look up the definition of aggravated assault, a felony.

    This is what would have happened to any of us if we had done the same thing in the parking lot, NOBODY is above the law, not even NHL “enforcers.” Another fine example of teaching kids about good sportsmanship by “professional athletes.”

  88. Well, the Pens beat Detroit last night 4-1, and so, the hockey season goes on, and, unfortunately, so does the violence, until it becomes economically unfeasible, which, hopefully, will be sooner than later.

  89. Old 1SG says:

    Scott, you have the best ideas I’ve read yet. I was hoping for but not expecting a 25 game suspension. I also wanted a huge team fine. I wonder if the NHL even considered that an 8 minute (at most) per game thug had deliberately targeted and assaulted another teams top two defensemen? Are they going to wait until a star such as Crosby has his career finished by a similar thug incident before they actually do something viable? By then it’s too late for the star player and their fans. I also believe the Refs let this game get out of hand. Time to clean up your act NHL before it’s to late. @ DK, using the Billy Buckner comment was genius. I certainly agree with your analysis on this one.

  90. Old 1SG says:

    Anyone catch the Don Cherry comments on Hockey Night in Canada last night? The night it happened he stated he didn’t even want to show this attack on the air as it was sickening and uncalled for. Last night he showed The Thornton trying to get Brooks to fight incident but not the actual attack. He then went on to say Brooks should have fought, was basically a coward and that the suspension was 5 games too long. How many kids in Canada watch this guy every week and believe everything he says? Nice message Don. Comments like Dons will ensure that the band plays on.

  91. JP says:

    The NHL and hockey will be better off when this buffoon dies.

  92. Eric from G'burg says:

    Excellent points Scott. I couldn’t agree more. Bravo.

  93. Aero says:

    As usual, the Boston media is outraged. Boston Herald says the suspension is far too harsh and that Orpik is a dishonorable coward for not fighting Thornton. Not kidding, it’s in print today…

  94. Shawn Thornton has some nerve appealing his suspension, which I naturally hope that the NHL will uphold.

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