Shawn Thornton was suspended fifteen games for his assault on Brooks Orpik. Thornton threw Orpik to the ice and continued to punch him after earlier in the game Orpik cleaned out Loui Eriksson at the blue line. Orpik failed to fight Thornton when he skated to the defense of Eriksson. If you watched the game you could tell that something of this magnitude was inevitably going to happen.
For that reason alone the suspension seems somewhat excessive. The refs failed to get the game under control after the hit, and Orpik turned down the opportunity to handle the situation himself. He is the one that decided not to fight Thornton. Had Orpik just fought after the hit all would have been right in the hockey world. The NHL is the one league that has the ability to police itself. It’s an unwritten rule: If you’re going to make a dirty play or a dirty hit you better be ready to drop the gloves.
I am a Boston Bruins fan, and I cannot argue the length of the suspension. I do, however, blame the NHL and its officiating for letting it get to this point. It was completely avoidable. The play eerily reminded me of the Todd Bertuzzi play a few years back. You cannot horse collar a player and continue to punch them while they are on the ice. Thornton knows better. There are certain things that are unacceptable, and as a player you have to control your emotion and your adrenaline. James Neal proved that when he thought it was a good idea to knee Brad Marchand in the head during the same game.
The NHL needed to set a precedent and use Thornton as an example. It’s too bad the league will never come out and take responsibility for its officials’ incompetence leading up to it.