Opinion: Thornton deserves a break

December, 16, 2013
12/16/13
6:47
PM ET
WILMINGTON, Mass. -- Bruins forward Shawn Thornton’s decision to appeal his 15-game suspension was the right one.

Thornton and his agent filed a written request with the NHL a few minutes before the 4 p.m. deadline Monday.

Thornton has the right to the appeal process, and commissioner Gary Bettman should give serious consideration to reducing Thornton’s sentence -- at least by a few games. After Thornton attacked and injured Pittsburgh Penguins’ Brooks Orpik at 11:06 of the first period on Dec. 7 at TD Garden, he was given a match penalty and subsequently suspended until his hearing with the league.

He had his in-person hearing last Friday in New York, and the NHL’s player safety department announced the suspension Saturday afternoon.

The incident deserves a lengthy suspension, but I don’t believe it should be 15 games. The biggest issue is the fact that play was stopped when Thornton jumped into a scrum to defend teammate Gregory Campbell, who was surrounded by three Pittsburgh players, including Orpik.

It’s a scenario we’ve seen Thornton and other Bruins players engage in to aid a teammate. But Thornton’s over-the-top actions -- slew-footing Orpik to the ice and punching him twice in the head, knocking the Penguins player unconscious -- is what NHL’s top cop Brendan Shanahan focused on.

The reason Thornton’s suspension should be reduced is based on the fact he’s never been fined or suspended during his 11 seasons in the NHL. He’s a standup guy, both on and off the ice, and Bettman should take that into consideration when hearing Thornton’s appeal. He’s not the type of player this incident and suspension is portraying him to be.

Thornton is not a predator. He made a mistake and he’s accepting responsibility for it. He’s forfeiting $84,615.45 in salary, but the league should show at least some leniency and reduce the punishment.

Joe McDonald

Reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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