- Joe McDonald, Reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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After the team's morning skate Tuesday at Ristuccia Arena, Thornton said it was not an easy decision and he's had difficulty sleeping the last couple nights. He was even late getting onto the ice Tuesday because he was exhausting options with his representatives.
Thornton, his agent and the Bruins felt that by the time a decision on the appeal was made, it actually wouldn't save him any games. He's eligible to return Jan. 11 against the San Jose Sharks.
Thornton said he'd rather not be a distraction for the team and wants to focus on preparing for his return.
"I'm still not happy with the amount of games that I got but respect the decision," Thornton said. "I'd rather just move on mentally and just focus on getting ready for the 11th instead of focusing on getting ready for another hearing."
Thornton received support from coach Claude Julien.
"You respect that; it's his decision," Julien said. "At the end of the day, I don't know what his thoughts are, but by the time it gets all said and done it's just a matter of moving on. For me, it might not be a bad thing for him just to focus on his return versus the process of going through it."
Speaking to media for the first time since the incident, Thornton still showed remorse for slew-footing Orpik to the ice and punching him twice in the head. Orpik suffered a concussion and was taken off the ice on a stretcher.
Thornton had his in-person disciplinary hearing with the league's department of player safety on Dec. 13, and vice president of player safety Brendan Shanahan handed down his decision the following day.
Thornton appealed that decision on Dec. 17 and met with commissioner Gary Bettman on Dec. 20. Bettman upheld the decision on Dec 24.
"It's an experience, I'll say that," Thornton said of the process. "You'd rather not be a part of it, but I learned a lot along the way, too. I'm going to put it behind me now and just focus on getting ready for San Jose."
Thornton said he and Orpik spoke the night of the incident and a few times since.
"We've known each other for a long time, and I said that right after the fact," Thornton said. "We're friends, and obviously the outcome wasn't intended and I felt awful about it. That hasn't changed and we've talked. We talked that night. We were still friends after the fact that night and that helped me through this a little bit, for sure."
Thornton also said he has received support from several players around the league.
"There were a lot of guys throughout the league that reached out to me that I didn't know had my number with a lot of kind texts and phone calls that were very appreciated," Thornton said. "All of them were unnecessary but it speaks to the character of the guys that reached out, and the guys that spoke out in the media, too, supporting me. They didn't have to do that and it helped me through the first little bit."
The thing that bothered Thornton the most, he said, was the way he was being portrayed after the incident.
Whenever he returns, however, he won't change the way he plays the game.
"I'm not going to let this define me," he said. "I obviously made a mistake, one mistake doing the job I've done for 600-something games, including playoffs. It's a tough question to answer because I know I made a mistake, but this won't define me. I'm going to move on, continue to play and put this in the past."
He also wanted to make clear that the incident had nothing to do with fighting in the conventional sense. His actions were wrong and he accepts the harsh punishment for not staying within the rules, he said, but once he returns he'll still drop the gloves when needed.
"It won't affect the way I do my job," he said. "My job is still to protect my teammates. My job is still to play productive minutes when I'm out there. Play hard and play the game within the lines, and that's what I'll try to continue to do."