Bruins forward Shawn Thornton  joined Dennis & Callahan on Wednesday for his weekly discussion, as the B’s prepare for a Thursday night game in Montreal against the Canadiens.
Thornton said players who join the Bruins should know how heated this rivalry can be before stepping onto the ice.
“You are expected to, but it probably took a game or three for me to actually really understand it,” he said. “Now I fully embrace it.”
Added Thornton: “You just get an appreciation for the deep-rooted history of hatred for each other. Being in that building and then coming into our building, there’s an energy level that you don’t really know about until you’re involved in it. I’m excited for our new guys to actually get a taste of it here.”
Despite the nastiness that sometimes has surrounded the rivalry, Thornton said he feels comfortable mingling with the locals while in the city.
“They’re very knowledgeable fans up there. They’re very passionate, obviously,” he said. “For the most part, they’re hockey fans. Even if they don’t like us, there might be some chirping and stuff, but no [more than that].”
There has been a movement to curtail fighting in hockey, but Thornton said he does not believe it will be banned from the game while he is playing.
“I think they want it in the game. I think everybody wants it in the game,” Thornton said. “But they’re kind of at a stage now with all the [concussion] stuff going on that the league’s been put in a position that they have to cover their own [butts] about it. I think that’s the biggest reason that you feel this sort of push towards I guess it being phased out a little. But I think it’s more about covering their own [butts] than anything else.”
Thornton said in-game hits are far more of a concern than dropping the gloves with an opponent.
“Listen, I go into a fight, I know what I’m doing. It’s very rare that we’re getting hurt in a fight,” Thornton said. “I don’t know the stats — I’ve argued it before and I should probably get the numbers — but the amount of concussions that have come from fighting in the last 10 years as opposed to guys that have been hit? We’re running around there at whatever, 30 miles per hour in a closed atmosphere with no out of bounds. There’s going to be some injuries. There’s nowhere to go except the boards, and those aren’t as forgiving as people think.
“They have to get rid of cheap shots, the hits from behind, the head shots, the elbows to the head, stuff like that. That’s where it’s coming from. If you’re not expecting it, that’s when you get hurt. I think for the majority of us, when we’re fighting, we’re fairly prepared, we know what we’re doing. I know what I’m signing up for.”
Thornton said he doesn’t believe anyone on the Bruins is opposed to fighting.
“Not a one on my team as far as I know,” Thornton said. “As far as I know our team — you’d have to pose the question to everyone, but I can’t see anyone on our team that doesn’t think it’s a great part of the game. We might be a little biased, the way our team’s built. I think everyone appreciates the job that is done and how important it is to the game in some situations.”
On new teammate Loui Eriksson: “I like Loui, I think he fits well there. He’s very smart defensively. He’s not flashy, but he gets the job done. He’s been a great guy in the locker room. Having him with [Brad Marchand ] and [Patrice Bergeron ], I think it’s been a good fit so far. Same thing with Reilly Smith. Nobody really talks about him in that trade, but he’s been an unbelievable player for us. We might have stolen somebody there. He’s been really good.”
On the challenge of playing on the road in hockey as compared to football: “Historically we’ve been a pretty good road team. In hockey it’s a little different. I don’t know, I like the road. I like it that there’s no distractions. All you do is focus on playing hockey. I don’t mind being on the road. I don’t think it’s as much of a disadvantage as it would be in football.”
On the Olympic break: “That’s a long ways to Sochi. We’re going to probably have to manage rest a lot with those guys that have to go there and play there for two weeks. For the rest of us, we’ll get a nice little break. We’ll be fairly fresh coming out of it. Those are the best players in the world, so when they come back, after a week off, they’ll be firing on all cylinders. So, the guys that are going have to manage the rest. The guys that aren’t going have to make sure they stay on top of their game while we’re off. But you know what, it’s a great platform for the game, the Olympic hockey. I think they’re going to start marketing it fairly well. I think it’s great for the sport worldwide.”