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Bettman upholds 15-game suspension for Thornton

Dec 24, 2013, 12:36 PM EDT

shawnthorntonap AP

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has upheld the 15-game suspension given to Bruins forward Shawn Thornton for what NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan originally deemed an “act of retribution” on Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik.

Click here for a PDF of Bettman’s ruling, in which the commissioner disagrees with the NHLPA’s contention that Thornton should have been suspended in the range of 10 to 12 games.

Wrote Bettman in his decision: “While I am prepared to accept Mr. Thornton’s testimony that at the time the whistle blew he had no specific intention of targeting Mr. Orpik (and may not have even realized he was on the ice), I believe it is very apparent from the video that given the scrum and his recognition of Mr. Orpik’s presence on the ice, Mr. Thornton recognized an opportunity to exact the retribution that was denied him when Mr. Orpik earlier had declined his invitation to fight. He casually skated up behind Mr. Orpik and took him down under circumstances in which the latter ‘never had a chance’ to defend himself. Interestingly (and disturbingly), Mr. Thornton testified at the hearing that he knew exactly what he was doing and that he was in complete control of his emotions.”

Bettman concluded, “In these circumstances, I have no trouble concluding that a very lengthy suspension is warranted and that the decision to impose a fifteen (15) game suspension is supported by clear and convincing evidence. In fact, in light of all the circumstances relating to the underlying conduct, it is certainly possible to argue for a more severe punishment, but I am comfortable relying on Mr. Shanahan’s judgment.”

Now that Bettman has upheld the suspension, Thornton has a week to decide if he wants to appeal to a neutral discipline arbitrator, whose decision would “be final and binding in all respects and not subject to review,” per the CBA.


The Bruins released the following statement on Bettman’s ruling:

“We respect the process including the ability to attend the hearing with Commissioner Bettman in support of Shawn. At this time, we will decline comment until the process is complete and Shawn has exhausted all rights available to him.”

  1. montrealbbr - Dec 24, 2013 at 12:39 PM


    • drewsylvania - Dec 24, 2013 at 1:09 PM

      “In fact, in light of all the circumstances relating to the underlying conduct, it is certainly possible to argue for a more severe punishment.”

      Indeed. And more severe punishments should be the standard for all attempt-to-injure headshots going forward.

      • lamarraj - Dec 24, 2013 at 1:22 PM

        So James Neal and Brooks Orpik should have both been more severely punished in that case? Because if that is what you are saying I agree.

      • joey4id - Dec 24, 2013 at 1:41 PM

        attempt-to-injure head shots doesn’t make sense. If you meant to say “more severe punishments should be the standard for all head shots going forward” then that makes more sense. BTW, I agree. However, the GMs voted this down back a couple of years ago.

      • kovodisc - Dec 24, 2013 at 3:13 PM

        By that logic then clearly the 5-game suspension was not sufficient for James Neal’s actions towards Marchand.

        It was undoubtedly an “attempt-to-injure” headshot.

        The league is contradicting itself with all these suspension/non-suspensions.

        Nothing will change unless the action itself is punished, and not the result of the action.

      • joey4id - Dec 24, 2013 at 4:22 PM

        The league is not contradicting itself, but, that doesn’t mean they are perfect either. If you read the CBA and NHL Rules, then you’ll see that they are very consistent. If a head shot occurs and it was not the primary point of contact then a suspension is not automatic. If the head is the primary point of contact then there will be a suspension. If there is no injury after the head was targeted and made the primary point of contact the suspension will not be as long. Ex: Neal suspension would have been longer if Marchand would have suffered from a concussion. It’s all in the Rule Book and CBA.

    • theskinsman - Dec 24, 2013 at 7:02 PM

      Hope the Bruins give him a bonus to cover the lost money, and the arbitrator reduces it to 10 games. You laughing because the NHL didn’t overrule itself is what’s funny.That, and your IQ.

      • upyoursnfu - Dec 24, 2013 at 11:35 PM

        Sure…give him a bonus for committing an act that if it was done on the street could possible get him jail time. Keep trying to defend Thornton. Its quite comical.

    • c9castine - Dec 24, 2013 at 11:11 PM

      you all act like arguing somebody else should have gotten more games means what thornton did was less criminal or didn’t merit the 15.

      argue that some time else. none of it means that thornton doesnt deserve at least 15 games.

      there are several reasons why james neal isn’t appealing his, like leadership and class within the organization. but another one is he knows he got off easy. thornton should realize the same.

  2. steelers88 - Dec 24, 2013 at 12:43 PM

    Merry Christmas ya filthy animal.

    • bcsteele - Dec 24, 2013 at 12:56 PM

      …and a happy new year…

      • Shanahammer - Dec 24, 2013 at 1:24 PM

        Based on your name, I am guessing this is your proudest moment on 2013.

  3. ipaintrinks - Dec 24, 2013 at 12:55 PM

    good. about time they show some balls.

    • polegojim - Dec 24, 2013 at 2:09 PM

      Agreed – must say I’m pleasantly surprised… thought for sure they’d reduce it.

      Good for the NHL – Now we can all move on.

      PS – I don’t see any reasonable way to ‘eliminate’ head shots… it’s a high speed game where player positions can change in an instant causing VERY unintentional head shot.

      Interpretation of ‘Intent’ and player history are keys to punishment – make suspensions longer and take away enough money to make it hurt. Thornton comes even remotely close to a similar situation in the near, he’s gone for a year and NHL keeps his salary – donating it to the concussion lawsuit fund.

  4. sampulls - Dec 24, 2013 at 1:04 PM

    Lost any and all respect for Thornton after he appealed. Add him to the list of rats in the NHL. Ironically that makes 2 on the bruins alone.

    • ibieiniid - Dec 24, 2013 at 1:17 PM

      appealing. worse than attacking a punching a player in this guy’s book.

    • matt14gg - Dec 24, 2013 at 6:43 PM

      What’s ironic about it?

  5. thirdngoal - Dec 24, 2013 at 1:10 PM

    If Thorton appeals this again I’d hope they would give him 5 more games as he stated he was in complete control of his emotions and knew exactly what he was doing. That alone should tell him he deserves the 15 he got.

    • sporkov - Dec 24, 2013 at 1:21 PM

      I have hoping for that since he only got 15 and was even thinking about appealing.

  6. 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Dec 24, 2013 at 1:18 PM

    Good. This should be a precedent: first time offenders can have the hammer brought down on them if they do something stupid. Let’s start seeing five- to ten-gamers for all reckless hits and attempts to injure.

  7. chrisantma - Dec 24, 2013 at 1:25 PM

    I really loved the fact that he threw himself under the bus when explaining that he was just ‘looking for the biggest player’ in his first hearing and later changed his story. Liar and a dirty POS.

    “At the hearing conducted by Mr. Shanahan, Mr. Thornton denied that he attempted to target Mr. Orpik, suggesting instead that he merely was looking for the “biggest” player in the scrum. (See Mr. Shanahan’s Testimony Tr. 84) That is not a credible explanation.5 Moreover, it is inconsistent with the testimony that Mr. Thornton provided at the December 20 hearing, where he acknowledged that he identified Mr. Orpik before he crossed the Pittsburgh blue line.’

    • hockeyflow33 - Dec 24, 2013 at 2:43 PM

      He’s actually been nothing but truthful from the beginning.

  8. polishblue - Dec 24, 2013 at 1:31 PM

    My opinion: if he goes to a personal arbitrator, the league will See it as him turning his back on them. Following his next reviewable/suspend able hit, he’ll get the short end of the stick…

  9. bruinpred - Dec 24, 2013 at 1:40 PM

    I doubt Thornton is worrying about any troll’s respect.

  10. joey4id - Dec 24, 2013 at 1:47 PM

    It would not have been appropriate to throw Shanahan under the bus by reducing the length of Thornton’s suspension because this decision was not made by Shanahan alone. Thornton got what he deserved, and he can go to an NDA, but that probably won’t happen before the weekend at best.

  11. steelers88 - Dec 24, 2013 at 1:57 PM

    Funny how everyone is still arguing over the length of Thornton’s suspension. I wish people would move on.

    • kovodisc - Dec 24, 2013 at 3:32 PM

      I know! It’s ridiculous.

      They should be arguing about Neal getting off lightly haha

  12. markelavs123 - Dec 24, 2013 at 2:08 PM

    Finally Bettman said something productive

  13. Stiller43 - Dec 24, 2013 at 2:12 PM


    What did orpik do besides deliver a clean hit?

    At least neals a split second during the game decision (still wrong), thorntons was forethought, then skating halfway down the ice to slewfoot him and punch him in the head repeatedly while hes on the ice.

    If you dont see the difference, youre completely blindly biased.

    • hockeyflow33 - Dec 24, 2013 at 2:45 PM

      Neal went out of his way to knee someone directly in the head.

      Orpik hit someone who did not have the puck or the ability to play the puck.

      • dirt2013 - Dec 24, 2013 at 3:25 PM

        And yet it wasn’t a penalty so either you or the 2 refs are wrong.Plus Orpic wasn’t suspended so the league thought it was a clean hit also. The world must be against the big bad Bruins.

      • kovodisc - Dec 24, 2013 at 3:30 PM

        Neal’s was dirty – no two ways about it.

        Orpik’s hit was borderline (at best) due to the fact that Louis didn’t have the puck, and Orpik was committed to the hit the entire time – had the chance to let up (on a player that JUST came back from a concussion), but chose not to.

        One thing that hasn’t really been brought up – Was Louis ready to come back? Maybe not – many players shake that hit off.

        This coming from a B’s fan, too

      • hockeyflow33 - Dec 25, 2013 at 1:28 AM

        Because the officials missed a call on the ice, it does not mean it wasn’t a penalty. Orpik wasn’t suspended because he’s out indefinitely with concussions and the league would look really bad suspending him.

        Nowhere do I make the claim the there is some anti-Bruins conspiracy so take that garbage somewhere else.

      • whammy71 - Dec 25, 2013 at 1:30 PM

        Hockeyflow – try watching the replay. Ericsson swung his stick around and the puck hits his stick prior to Orps hitting him. Hit was CLEAN and LEGAL.

        And Bruins fans can’t cry that Orps “should have” let up cause the player he hit had previously had a concussion this year. The dude was cleared to play by the team’s doctors. If you are cleared – you are fair game…..blame the doctors and the Bruins organization if you have a problem with it.

    • kovodisc - Dec 24, 2013 at 3:27 PM

      Take the rose colored glasses off…

      Neal’s was a “split second” decision? Nice try. As far as “forethought” – you can watch Neal make the conscious decision to move INTO the head of Marchand. Thornton isn’t saying “ya, i meant to knock him out like that and intended on getting that result”

      Thornton wasn’t trying to concuss Orpik like that. Rough him up for sure…but concuss him like that – no way. He may get the wrap as a “goon” by many, but Thornton plays his role very well and holds opponents accountable for their rough play. If he was a “goon” why hasn’t he ever even been contacted by the office regarding a suspension? Because he plays within the game 99.999999% (ok…maybe 95% 😉 ) He’s an “enforcer”, but by no means a “goon”.

      • sclairebear - Dec 24, 2013 at 9:13 PM

        Wait, let me get this straight. You say that Thornton slew-footed Orpik and hit him on the ice while he was unconscious (already a sign of a concussion) and yet he “wasn’t trying to concuss Orpik like that..” And to top it all off, your beginning sentence is “take the rose colored glasses off…” I certainly hope that you’re trying for sarcasm here…

    • wikidpissah - Dec 25, 2013 at 9:41 AM

      There’s a difference between a legal hit and a clean hit. Orpik’s was legal, but he hit a very clean player with no history of fighting, who had just recovered from a concussion. Orpik is a coward who picks his shots, and only runs guys who won’t retaliate. Do you think if that had been Thornton or Lucic coming out of the zone Orpik would have done the same thing?

      Penguins fans, if someone had hit Crosby coming out of the zone, with his concussion history, would you all be saying how clean it was?

      • whammy71 - Dec 25, 2013 at 1:33 PM

        If you have a problem with Orps hitting someone with a concussion history…..blame the Bruins, team doctors and Ericsson himself. The player was cleared to play by the team and its doctors……he is fair game – and the hit was clean and legal.

  14. benrob99 - Dec 24, 2013 at 8:18 PM

    I seriously do not know HOW many times I can say this… you can NOT compare the actions of someone in the “heat of the moment” while the play is in progress (Neal) to an ASSAULT from behind 15 seconds after the whistle blows. There is NO comparison as to which was worse. Neal’s knee was dirty. Thornton’s assault was a thuggish outburst by a no talent goon. To see it any other way makes you a COMPLETE idiot… or a bruins fan (same difference)

    • ryanw822 - Dec 24, 2013 at 9:59 PM

      congrats on being an idiot.

      Thornton’s punching was more of a heat of the moment exchange than Neal. Neal saw a guy on his knees facing the opposite direction and decided to put his knee in the back of that player’s head. There is nothing “heat of the moment” in that action.

      no talent goon?? yeah, you arent the moron here….

      • greenmtnboy31 - Dec 27, 2013 at 12:11 PM

        Heat of the moment? Like chasing a guy around the rink and then jumping him and slew footing him from behind? That kind of heat of the moment, after a couple of shift changes?

        Apparently, Thornton isn’t the only moron.

  15. theskinsman - Dec 24, 2013 at 8:29 PM

    For 15 games, Thornton should’ve got Neal down and pounded him,too.

  16. jimeejohnson - Dec 24, 2013 at 8:54 PM

    Nobody’s perfect. Merry Christmas!

  17. blomfeld - Dec 24, 2013 at 8:58 PM


    Full marks to Bettman for having the chutzpah to do the ‘right’ thing in this sordid affair. Thornton must pay for his ‘misguided’ ways and Gary has seen to that. In fact, this is no different than last year when those ‘narcissistic & disingenuous’ Fehr brothers (ie: Rattus Advocatus) were ‘dealt with’ in no uncertain terms.

    MERRY CHRISTMAS TO BETTMAN & FRIENDS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :)

  18. northstarnic - Dec 24, 2013 at 10:18 PM

    As much as it pains me to admit, I totally agree with Bettman on this one.

  19. benrob99 - Dec 25, 2013 at 12:26 PM

    Before this incident I viewed Boston sports fans as being on the same level with Philly fans or Cleveland fans. After this I realize how wrong I was. Boston is in a scumbag category ALL their own.

  20. bleedrangerblue - Dec 25, 2013 at 1:42 PM

    There are unwritten rules when it comes to fighting. The goon Thornton broke all of them. I wish John Scott would knock his ass out again.

    • greenmtnboy31 - Dec 27, 2013 at 12:09 PM

      He will. Just give Scott a little time. He’ll knock him out.

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