Shawn Thornton ‘Always Playing Pranks’ and 24 Other Ways Teammates and Coaches Describe the Bruins Enforcer


Oct 7, 2011

Shawn Thornton 'Always Playing Pranks' and 24 Other Ways Teammates and Coaches Describe the Bruins Enforcer Shawn Thornton has proven his value to the Bruins throughout his first four years in Boston. He's become beloved by the fans, trusted by the coaches and respected by his fellow players as the ultimate teammate.

Thornton himself has never been at a loss for words on or off the ice, but we'll let his current and former teammates and coaches offer their thoughts on some of the qualities that enabled Thornton to carve out a successful career in the NHL and make such a profound impact on the Bruins' rise to a Stanley Cup championship.


Gregory Campbell, Bruins center
"Not only does he play that tough guy role, but he's quite the leader in the room as well. He's very vocal. He holds everybody accountable and he's not afraid to speak his mind, which is a good thing. He's very honest and he'll tell you how he feels. I think that's the way you have to be in order to win. You have to be straight forward and honest and tell somebody if they have more that they should be bringing. He's learned a lot and has a lot of experience in both the NHL and just pro hockey in general and now having two Stanley Cups, he has a lot he can offer [to his teammates]."

Patrice Bergeron, Bruins alternate captain
"He's got the experience, and he's won two Cups already. Obviously his experience and leadership brings a lot to the room. He's been around for a long time now and he can teach a lot to really all of the guys in here. He's a big part of the team."

Claude Julien, Bruins coach
"He's an older player now and he takes the game seriously. He understands his role. He understands his ice time. He doesn't get upset with that stuff. But what he does well is he talks in the dressing room. He makes sure he keeps everybody focused and in line and if he has something to say between periods he's not afraid to speak up."

Al MacAdam, Buffalo scout and former St. John's (AHL) coach
"He was very vocal. He played to win. He's not more vocal because he's in Boston and a veteran. He's always been that way. When he came to us, he wasn't shy about that."


Zdeno Chara, Bruins captain
"His role is very important to this team and that role is probably the toughest in the NHL. He's got a tough task some nights, but he's been really reliable doing his job every night. He can always rely on him."

"I don't think it's about size, a lot of times it's about the heart and the skill to be able to handle the fights. He's not always the biggest guy, but he handles it very well. He does his job in a smart way and knows how to take different approaches to different fighters."

Trevor Gillies, New York Islanders enforcer and former AHL teammate
"We played against each other many times in the American Hockey League and we've fought a bunch. They've always been good fights. There's never been one lopsided either way. He's a really tough opponent and he takes pride in his job. You always have to be ready if you're going to duke it out with the big 2-2 there. He works tremendously hard on his game and he's in phenomenal shape. The guy's ripped up like a bad report card."


Chris Kelly, Bruins center
"Obviously he's a character. When I got traded here he was one of the first guys to make me feel welcome. He was one of the first to lend a hand and have us, [Tomas] Kaberle and [Shane] Hnidy and myself, over for dinner, and it's little things like that that go a long way to helping a new guy try to fit in."

Brad Marchand, Bruins forward
"He's a great teammate. He's always going to be there for you. It doesn't matter what it is. When it comes down to business he's always doing exactly what he has to do. He's always got your back, and he's got one of the toughest jobs in hockey. It's tough to go out there every night and know that you're going to have to fight guys and take a punch. He does it willingly and he's very good at it. We know that if anyone is going after our guys, he's going to be there. It's great to have him here."

"The one thing that I know for a fact is his teammates appreciate him and so do we as a coaching staff."

"He helped me a huge amount. Every night he'd tell me, 'Just go out and do whatever you want to do and I'll be there to back you up.' Him and Soupy [Campbell] were both great like that. They knew that coming in I was going to have to prove myself and be a bit of an agitator and a pest. That's a tough thing to do when you're out there by yourself, but he really wanted to make me comfortable and make sure I could play my role."


"Where he is at a player today, he's a player who I would consider a late bloomer. He's a guy that through he's career just kept getting better and better."

"Obviously he's a competitor, everybody knows that whether you play with him or against him. Playing with him you get more of a first-hand opportunity to see how tough his job is and how hard he competes on a daily basis. He's worked his way up and he deserves the credit he gets now and he deserves the opportunities he gets now because he battled his way to find a permanent job in the NHL and now he can look back on his career and has two Stanley Cups."

Jeff Twohey, Phoenix scout and former Peterborough (OHL) general manager
"He surprised me to a certain extent [with his NHL success]. I had a feeling if someone would just give him a chance he would be able to do it, but for me to say that I knew he was going to be a big part of two Stanley Cup winners, I couldn't say that. I but I know from the time he left us, I would have never counted him out."

"It really is a great story. It's almost something you could make a movie out of when you really get into what Shawn has done."

Randy Carlyle, Anaheim coach
"He was never a guy that had the security that a lot of guys had, contract-wise and whatnot. He was always one of those guys who was on the edge to whether he was going to play or not. I can remember getting a phone call from Tie Domi telling me when I was in the IHL, 'Look, this kid Shawn Thornton is a tough kid and he can help you.' He was part of the Leafs organization and he didn't have a job. In my situation I didn't have room for him because I had another player that fit the same mold, so that's how far down and how far back Shawn Thornton was and how far he's come."


"He's obviously a big presence on the ice and every time he steps on the ice his presence is always felt. He always steps up for his teammates and that means a lot to us and tells a lot about the guy."

Dave Duerden, Peterborough teammate
"His intensity and his leadership really rubbed off. His intensity got to be so ridiculous that guys might have thought it was laughable, but after playing with him for six months, you realized where he was coming from and guys really, really respected him by the end."

"When he came to Peterborough, what was really refreshing is he never asked for anything. He just wanted an opportunity. When you have that determination and all you want is that opportunity and you have that passion to be a player, then you've got a chance. He should be a role model to a lot of young players."

Hockey Skills

"I don't think he gets enough credit for how good of a hockey player he is. He's actually a really smart hockey player and he has quite a bit of skill as well. I think that was showcased a bit last year with his so-called breakout offensive season that he had. The value of those guys fluctuates around the league. Sometimes people think that tough guy role isn't as valuable as you think, but somebody like Shawn that sticks up for his teammates and can throw them with anybody and also put the puck in the net and be a responsible player, that's a very valuable combination to have as a player."

"I think if you ask him he's Wayne Gretzky, but he's got better hands than most people give him credit for. Obviously, 10 goals last year, he's done well for himself and he's continuously getting better. He works a lot on his hands and his shot in practice, and he loves his backhand toe-drag too. That's part of his game that's maybe underestimated for sure."

"He brings a lot. He brings energy. He makes smart plays for the most part, and if he makes a mistake he knows right away. He'll come to the bench and tell you, 'I know should have done this.' He's got a good understanding of the game and that's important. That's always been important to me as a coach. If I'm going to have a guy that stands tall for his team, I also want to be able to use him on the ice and not just sit him on the end of the bench and use him for one thing."

Craig Ramsay, former Bruins assistant coach
"Thornton is a talent. He has great hands. I have seen him do things in practice and score some wonderful goals. Thornton can do a lot more than people give him credit for. He's got some real skill."


"Thorty's always trying to crack guys up. It seems like his role now is the funny guy on the team. He just loves chirping guys and making the room a little easier to be in. He's always playing pranks. The other day he changed the laces in my shoes with hockey laces, stuff like that. He's always just having fun."

"He has fun when he comes to the rink, I can definitely say that about Thorty. He always has a smile on his face. If he's grumpy, he'll admit it, but it doesn't take him long to throw a one-liner out there to somebody to get a laugh out of the guys. He's hard on the young guys, but in a good way. It lightens the mood for everybody. I think the young guys look up to him and respect him, as does everybody in this room."

"He's pretty witty. He's a quick thinker. He can make everybody laugh. He's got good one-liners, and that's part of his personality. He's got a sharp sense of humor and he's not afraid to use it. He'll use it on us [coaches] every once in a while, but the thing with us is that we've all played the game, so we're pretty quick with the comebacks. So he has a challenge right there. And I've told him before when he's done a couple things, 'Well, there goes your power-play time.' And he'd reply, 'I know I wasn't going to be on it anyway.'"

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