Before we start here, let's just get something out of the way since almost everyone on the internet is sensitive these days. We are not saying what Thornton did is justified in any way. We are not saying we are glad he did it. What we are saying, however, is that Shawn Thornton is still a fantastic teammate and human being.
What we don't understand is the demonization of Shawn Thornton. One mistake made in the heat of the moment does not make an entire career worthless. Shawn Thornton has NEVER been a dirty player. Putting him in the same class as guys like James Neal, Patrick Kaleta and Steve Ott is absolutely absurd.
We where at the game when this happened and thought Loui had the puck or was at least near the puck when Orpik nailed him. We were (rightfully) blasted on Twitter for that assessment. And again, we're in no way excusing Thornton's behavior, but look at the scenario…
Thornton's teammate goes down in a heap, and Thornton knows Loui is just coming back from a concussion. Thornton sees Loui wasn't even near the puck and goes after Orpik. It was a play Orpik should've been penalized on and a hit that Orpik could've EASILY avoided. Orpik refuses to fight, the refs get in between Thornton and Orpik and Thornton goes to the box.
Next shift, Thornton challenges Orpik again, looking to make Orpik answer for a hit that could've easily been avoided. Orpik again refuses.
James Neal then purposely and maliciously knees Brad Marchand in the head. Not in the heat of the moment, mind you, but a calculated blow to Marchand's head. At the other end of the ice, Thornton sees Orpik engaged in a shoving match with another Bruins player and he snaps.
Again, that doesn't justify what happened. Thornton should not have attacked Orpik. But if you're a guy like Thornton who always puts his teammates first, the rage obviously blinded him. Two of his teammates got hit in the head and the refs are refusing to issue any warnings to either bench or call more penalties to settle things down.
So in the heat of the moment, Shawn Thornton makes the biggest mistake of his career.
Let's say you're out in Boston and you see a group of guys nail two of your friends in the head while a couple of police officers stand by and do nothing. What is the most likely outcome from this scenario:
A) You will calmly walk over to the guys who hit your friends and ask them to stop
B) The anger at seeing two of your friends injured will boil over and you jump one of the guys
If you answered A you're liar. Throughout his career Thornton has had a role where he has often had to take matters into his own hands. Given the entire scenario, we can completely understand why Thornton was so angry.
AGAIN, we don't think that justifies Thornton attacking Orpik and throwing him to the ice. But people make mistakes. Unfortunately someone was injured because of Thornton's mistake.
People are also bashing Thornton's apology, saying it was obviously a Bruins PR stunt. Have these people never seen Shawn Thornton give an interview? Thornton is one of the most honest interviews in the league. He doesn't bullshit and he doesn't say things he doesn't mean.
Thornton looked DESTROYED that his anger got the best of him. This is a guy who always spoke up against these sort of things and here he was caught up in a situation that violated everything he stood for. He knows what he did was wrong. He does. And given that this is the first time in his career that something like this has happened, we're confident he won't do it again.
Human beings are, to a detriment, controlled by emotion. Unfortunately Shawn Thornton let his emotions get the best of him a few moments too long and will pay the price.
But to say Thornton is an evil person and a terrible player because of this one incident is a joke. This one incident doesn't remove a career's worth of honorable play. We're still glad Thornton is a Bruin and we'll still be depressed the day he hangs up his skates.
"You either retire a hero, or you play long enough to see yourself become the villain."
You're still our hero Shawn Thornton.