WILMINGTON, Mass. — Shawn Thornton is used to being an intimidating presence on the ice.
After all, the Bruins tough guy has racked up some 3,135 penalty minutes over the course of his 15 professional seasons.
But for at least one young fan, Thornton is a lot less scary than the big guy in a red suit who makes the rounds this time of year.
On Tuesday, Thornton made an appearance with Kris Kingle at South Station, signing autographs and positing for pictures to raise money for The Globe Santa Fund, which collects donations to purchase holiday gifts for underprivileged children.
Colin Dunmead had no interest in posing with Santa, though. The 2-and-a-half-year-old from Mansfield, Mass., was a little apprehensive about approaching Santa when his father, Ryan, suggested he go to meet him.
Already a diehard bruins fan, Colin didn't want pass up that opportunity. He just had to get Thornton away from Santa first. Fortunately, Thornton was more than happy to step away for a quick photo with Colin and Ryan that was snapped by Colin's mother, Kristen Dunmead.
"He's kind of shy, he's kind of scared of Santa a little bit," Ryan Dunmead said by phone Thursday afternoon. "It's kind of funny. We were standing there. I saw Santa and was trying to get my son to go up to him and that's when we saw Shawn Thornton and I told my son, 'He plays for the Bruins.'
"My son loves hockey already," Dunmead added. "He's got the Bruins pennant in his room and points to it and says, 'Go Bruins!' and we have a little net set up in the living room that he plays with using those little mini-sticks. So he wanted to see the Bruins player, but he didn't want to see Santa. So we had to have Shawn step away from Santa and come over to us to take the picture."
Thornton wasn't expecting such a request, but was happy to oblige, though he did stress that there is no need to fear Santa.
"I do remember him," Thornton said of Colin after practice Thursday at Ristuccia Arena. "I don't know. I wasn't freaked out by Santa. He's pretty endearing to most kids. I was a little surprised, but he was a nice kid. Just didn't like Santa, I guess."
Of course, when the news gets out that the jolly old elf is more intimidating than the Bruins resident enforcer, it could hurt Thornton's reputation on the ice a bit.
"Maybe, that very well could be," Thornton said. "Maybe if I had my big beard I would be just as scary, but he seemed to take a shine to me a little more than Santa I guess."
Thornton has had a better year than the big guy so far, what with reaching double figures in goals for the first time in his NHL career last season, then winning his second Stanley Cup in five years. That's a tough act for Santa to match, but Thornton was quick to point out that Mr. Claus hasn't had his big night yet.
"We'll see what happens in a couple days," Thornton said. "He might have a good day, who knows? I like to think he will."
Thornton had a good day on Tuesday. The Bruins got a rare day off for practice and the entire team spent time delivering toys to children in seven local hospitals. Thornton joined Tyler Seguin, Benoit Pouliot and Steven Kampfer in bringing presents to the Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center, then headed over to South Station to help out at the Globe Santa fundraiser.
"I donated an hour of my time to help out Globe Santa raise some money," Thornton said. "It was very easy, not hard for me to do at all. I think we raised a little bit, so it was an easy way to do a good thing.
"It was the same day as the hospital visits," Thornton added. "It was a busy day, but it's a few hours out of our lives, right? It's not a big deal to put a smile on other people's faces."
Those kinds of good deeds might just be enough to keep Thornton off the naughty list, no matter how many penalty minutes he picks up. It also helps that Santa may just be predisposed to liking the Bruins.
"Santa's a big Bruins fan I found out," Thornton said. "That's what he told me. He watched in '72 a lot. He was very enthusiastic, let's put it that way."
Maybe if Colin Dunmead had known Santa was a fellow Bruins fan, he might have been willing to pose for a photo after all, though probably not. Not this year anyway.
"He was very happy to see Shawn, not so happy to see Santa," Ryan Dunmead said.
Photo via Kristen Dunmead
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