Everyone who enjoys watching the NHL loves to see the big hits. We all love to see the league’s big guys lay hits on the opposing teams’ stars. We chant, we yell and we laugh at the star that takes that hit. However, no one, no matter what team you cheer for, enjoys to see the stretcher have to come out to the ice.
During Saturday’s Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins game, Pens’ defense man Brooks Orpik was taken off the ice after one of the dirtiest hits that I have ever seen in hockey or in any sport. Thornton was looking for a reason to hit Orpik all first period. After James Neal hit Brad Marchand in the head with his knee, Thornton went looking to send a message to the Penguins. He picked Orpik out, after a hit that Orpik put on him earlier in the game. Thornton tripped Orpik and put him to the ground and then began to punch Orpik in the face.
This hit was completely and totally unnecessary! If you are a Boston Bruins fan, I already know the two things you are going to say: Look what Neal did to Marchand and remember what Matt Cooke did to Marc Savard. Yes, I agree that Cooke deserved to be suspended for what he did to Savard. That hit was dirty and uncalled for, and the punishment was just. This hit was the exact same thing, dirty! There is no way you can condemn one and not the other.
For this hit, the NHL office and Brendan Shanahan need to lay down the law on Thornton. Just because someone does not want to fight you doesn’t mean you come back at him and sucker punch him in the head. This was the play of a coward, not an enforcer. An enforcer fights the person one-on-one, not a come from behind hit-and-run.
I can see the NHL coming down hard on Thornton for this. The guy is a repeat offender, like Cooke was and Cooke felt the wrath of the NHL, and quickly.
No matter what team you are cheering for, this was unnecessary and uncalled for. I love to see the intensity of a growing rivalry like these two teams have, however, there has to be some limit to how far the league allows players like this to go.