Shawn Thornton gets paid to be physical and, when necessary, fight opposing players. It’s his job.
Last month, however, he lost some money — and games played — for doing just that, as the Boston Bruins forward went “outside the lines” for just a moment and paid for it severely.
“I messed up. I know that,” Thornton admitted to WEEI on Thursday when talking about his hit on Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik. “I’m not going to let it define me. It’s a mistake I made after 600 games playing right on the line. To be completely honest, doing my job is not an easy one, as far as riding the line. … I will say that, probably on the outside looking in, everyone probably thought I snapped. That wasn’t the case.”
“It’s tough to talk about because I know I messed up,” he added.
The NHL hit Thornton with a 15-game suspension following his Dec. 7 altercation with Orpik. The B’s enforcer went after Orpik in a chippy game that featured some questionable plays that enforcers like Thornton are required to seeks answers for. Thornton went about business as usual but admits he crossed the line.
“It was a one-time thing,” he said. “It was outside the lines. Everyone knows that. I paid the price for it handsomely. But now I go back to playing the way I played the last 600 games. It’s no different.”
As for the penalty that cost him a big chunk of change and more than a month of action? A little high, according to the veteran.
After initially being sidelined while the NHL decided his fate, Thornton was suspended 15 games, which he appealed. The league upheld the suspension, and Thornton did not appeal further via outside arbitration, saying he didn’t want to be a distraction to his team.
“I definitely thought that 15 was a little excessive,” he said. “How many games [do I deserve]? I don’t know. It’s not my job. And I know it’s not an easy job to assess those things. But I thought that being the lengthiest suspension [league disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan] ever handed out was a little bit much for my first-time offense, I guess.”
As for his relationship with Orpik, Thornton said he already has spoken to him and even plans to reach out again.
“I talked to him right afterwards,” he said. “I was going to shoot him a text [Wednesday]. I was going to say congrats on making the U.S. Olympic team. Maybe I’ll do that [Thursday]. I’m glad he’s back playing. He only missed six or seven days, I think, before he started skating again. That was good to see. … I was never trying to injure him. Listen, there [are] some guys I can’t stand in this league that I haven’t tried to injure. I like Brooksie. It wasn’t the outcome that I had intended going in.”