On December 7th, Shawn Thornton of the Boston Bruins attacked Brooks Orpik of the Pittsburgh Penguins from behind during a stoppage of play. Thornton’s actions resulted in Orpik being thrown to the ice and having to be removed from the ice by means of a stretcher.

Shawn Thornton

For that incident, Thornton received a 15-game suspension from Director of Player Safety, Brendan Shanhan. With the decision marking the first suspension handed down by Shanahan that exceeds 10-games, it brings to mind some other notable suspensions in hockey history. Since the year 2000, six-incidents warrant a look back.

At the start of this past pre-season, Toronto Maple Leafs forward David Clarkson left the bench to start a fight with John Scott of the Buffalo Sabers.

What started as Scott picking a fight and pushing Phil Kessel around, with Kessel responding by using his stick in defense, turned into Clarkson entering the ice to fight Scott. A massive pileup ensued where even the goalies got involved.

NHL rules state that leaving the bench for the purpose of fighting is an automatic 10-game suspension and forfeiture of $269 230.80. Due to the fact it was in the preseason, Clarkson was allowed to finish the preseason before serving the suspension. Kessel received a 3-game suspension for his actions in which he slashed Scott like his stick was an axe to chop down a tree.

On April 17th, 2012, Raffi Torres of the Phoenix Coyotes skated through the neutral zone and left his feet in the process of hitting Marian Hossa of the Chicago Blackhawks. In doing so, he received a 25-game suspension, which was later reduced to 21-games upon appeal.

Hossa had just passed the puck near his bench and looked to make a change when Torres, out of nowhere, leapt and jarred his shoulder right into Hossa’s head. Hossa, who suffered a concussion from the illegal hit, had to be removed on a stretcher, with Torres receiving no penalty on the play.

Earlier in the year, Torres served a 2-game suspension for a hit to the head of the Minnesota Wild’s Nate Prosser.

Torres also recived a suspension during the second round of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, as a member of the San Jose Sharks. This time, for a hit to the head of Los Angeles Kings forward Jarret Stoll.

Shawn Thornton

In March of 2007,  Chris Simon of the New York Islanders received a 25-game suspension for a vicious stick swinging incident, in which he slashed New York Rangers forward Ryan Hollweg in the jaw.

Just a few months later, Simon was at it again. This time, he received a 30-game suspension for stomping Pittsburgh Penguins forward Jarkko Ruutu’s leg with his skate.

The incident started during a stoppage in play with Simon and Tim Jackman going to the bench. Jackman and Ruutu exchanged words before Simon skated over and pulled Ruutu’s leg out of the bench and stomped it.

Simon’s ugly actions resulted in a match penalty and game misconduct. Simon has received 8-suspensions in his career for a total of a whopping 65-games. This begs the question: How many suspensions are enough to warrant a more permanent solution?

Shawn Thornton

One of the most infamous incidents in NHL history occurred when Vancouver Canucks forward Todd Burtuzzi’s violently attacked Colorado Avalanche forward Steve Moore on March 8th, 2004.

On February 14th of that year, Vancouver’s Markus Naslund, the NHL leading scorer, was hit from behind and received a concussion at the hands of Steve Moore. With no call on the play, Canucks player called him out in the media, in addition to Brad May issuing a bounty on him.

With NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman in attendance on March 3rd, the game resulted in a 5-5 tie with no incident. Five-days later, however, things were less than calm in the rematch. Several Vancouver players made it a point to go after Moore. Eventually, Matt Cooke was able to get Moore to fight him in the first-period.

Late in the third-period, Todd Burtuzzi left the Canucks bench and began skating after Moore. After Moore refused to drop the gloves, Burtuzzi punched Moore in the back of the head, forcing him face first into the ice. The immediate response had four-other players pile up on the already injured Moore. Burtuzzi was given a match penalty and received a 20-game suspension.

His suspension was extended by the International Ice Hockey Federation to cover all of the 2004-2005 lockout to prevent him from playing in Europe. Steve Moore suffered 3-fractured vertebrae in the neck, a grade-concussion, and facial lacerations. Moore has yet to play another game in the NHL.

As a result of these on-ice incidents, it’s safe to say that if somebody injures an opponent in attempt to get even, or even by suffering a major lapse in judgment, the punishment should be stiff. Shawn Thornton absolutely deserved his 15-game suspension for his attack on Orpik.

Shawn Thornton

Despite the NHL stepping up their disciplinary actions in the last few years, Shawn Thornton has remained the definition of a guy who is an enforcer in the league; one who goes about it the right way to boot. Unfortunately, it caught up to him this time by crossing the line on this latest incident.

Enforcers still have a place in the game so long as the etiquette is obeyed. Players like Shawn Thornton are not dangerous players. This ugly set of events, however, prove that it can happen to anyone.

Please comment below if you have any other thoughts regarding the Shawn Thornton suspension.

Shawn Thornton
Does Shawn Thornton deserve a 15 game suspention?