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Shawn Thornton not taking appeal to independent arbitrator 12.31.13 at 12:12 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — Bruins forward Shawn Thornton will not appeal his 15-game suspension to a neutral arbitrator.

Thornton’s suspension for attacking Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik on Dec. 7 was upheld by commissioner Gary Bettman last week, with Thornton having seven days to take the appeal to an independent arbitrator. Thornton has served 10 of his 15 games thus far and will be eligible to return to the lineup Jan. 11 in San Jose.

“I’m still not happy with the amount of games I got,” Thornton said. “I know I’m not a victim, but I’m not happy with the amount of games I got. But I respect the decision and I’d rather just move on mentally and focus on getting ready for the 11th instead of focusing on getting ready for another hearing.”

With Thornton choosing not to take the process further, there has still been no instances of players appealing suspensions to neutral arbitrators, which is allowed under the current collective bargaining agreement. Sabres forward Patrick Kaleta appealed his 10-game suspension to Bettman in October but also declined to advance the process after his ban was upheld. The decision to not go further was made at the last minute by Thornton, who spent much of Monday night and Tuesday morning weighing his options.

“I’d rather not be a distraction around here. I’d rather focus on getting ready for January 11, which is 12 days out now. I’m not going to lie to you, it wasn’t an easy decision,” Thornton said. “I’ve been thinking about it for the last 36 hours, not much sleep, but I feel for the team it’s probably the right thing to do I guess at this point, not going through the whole process again for a third time.”

Numerous players throughout the league reached out to Thornton during his suspension to offer their support. Among them was Sharks forward Raffi Torres, who has been suspended four times by the league and was banned for a total of 21 games for a postseason hit on Marian Hossa in the 2012 playoffs.

Yet perhaps the most encouraging words Thornton got were from Orpik himself, as the two have been friends and offseason workout partners over the years. Upon returning to practice, Orpik defended Thornton to reporters, saying, “I think he knew he made a mistake and regretted it right away.”

“Well we’ve known each other for a long time,” Thornton said. “I said right after the fact that the outcome was not what was intended and I felt awful about it. That hasn’t changed, and we’ve talked. We talked that night. We were still friends after the fact that night. Talking [to him], that helped me through this a little bit, for sure.”

For more Bruins coverage, visit weei.com/bruins.

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NHL commissioner upholds Shawn Thornton’s 15-game suspension 12.24.13 at 12:39 pm ET
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The NHL announced Tuesday that commissioner Gary Bettman has upheld the 15-game suspension given to Bruins forward Shawn Thornton for attacking Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik on Dec. 7.

Thornton, who has missed eight games since the incident, appealed the original decision by NHL senior vice president of player safety Brendan Shanahan that was announced on Dec. 14. He met with the commissioner in New York on Friday, along with his agent, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli and three representatives from the NHL Players Association.

The NHLPA argued for a suspension in the range of 10-12 games, noting that Thornton had never previously been suspended and the punishment was not consistent with previous penalties for similar actions.

Wrote Bettman in Tuesday’s announcement: “I have no trouble concluding that a very lengthy suspension is warranted and that the decision to impose a 15-game suspension is supported by clear and convincing evidence. In fact, in light of all the circumstances relating to the underlying conduct, it is certainly possible to argue for a more severe punishment, but I am comfortable relying on Mr. Shanahan’s judgment.”

Added Bettman: “The objective evidence makes it clear to me that Mr. Thornton’s conduct was premeditated and an act of retaliation, and I do not believe that any person with experience in the game could conclude otherwise.”

Thornton, who can appeal the decision to a neutral arbitrator as per the terms of the new collective bargaining agreement, will forfeit $85,615 in salary. The money goes to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.

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Former Bruins enforcer Chris Nilan on D&C explains friendship with Whitey Bulger: ‘I’m a loyal person. He was a friend of mine’ 12.19.13 at 10:49 am ET
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Former NHL enforcer Chris Nilan joined Dennis & Callahan on Thursday to talk about his hockey career, his post-NHL addiction issues and his friendship with Whitey Bulger that continues to this day.

Former NHL enforcer Chris Nilan has a few tales to tell in his new book. (AP)

Former NHL enforcer and Boston native Chris Nilan has a few interesting tales to tell in his new book. (AP)

Nilan, a product of West Roxbury and Northeastern University, was selected 231st (of 234 players) in the 1978 NHL draft but managed to have a long career with the Canadiens, Rangers and Bruins. He still holds the Canadiens franchise record for penalty minutes in a career (2,248) and season (358). He had 222 fights in his 13 NHL seasons, including 43 in 1985-86 during the Canadiens’ Stanley Cup-winning season.

Following his retirement after the 1991-92 season, Nilan had issues with alcohol and drugs, he was arrested for shoplifting and his 25-year marriage dissolved. Nilan says he has been clean and sober for three years, living with his girlfriend on the West Island of Montreal. He recently wrote a book: “Fighting Back: The Chris Nilan story.”

Nilan, now 55, grew up in Boston in the 1970s and fell in love with hockey while watching the Big, Bad Bruins. He made the NHL as a tough guy but worked to develop his game and ended up averaging 20 goals over two seasons in the mid-1980s. He said the drive he used to get him to the NHL came in handy when he hit rock bottom after his career.

“I had a dream of playing in the NHL one day,” he said. “I think the story somewhat reverts back to the things that — I had my transgressions and my drugs after hockey. Through alcoholism and drug addiction, I kind of reached back and used some of those things that drove me and got me to the National Hockey League to get me sober.”

Nilan said his turning point in his fight against addiction came after he started shooting heroin, something he promised himself he would never do.

“I was wrapped up in that for about eight months,” Nilan said. “And that night, sitting on the toilet, I basically overdosed. I woke up probably three hours later. I stood up and I fell forward and hit my head on the wall and knocked myself out again. And when I woke up from that I had I guess what you’d call the gift of desperation. I knew I needed to get help. I was in such a bad place. I was so beaten down; I beat myself down. I made a phone call and asked for help. It was the best move I ever made. … Clean since. And sober.”

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Andy Brickley on M&M: Brad Marchand ‘overthinking it right now’ 12.18.13 at 12:00 pm ET
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Andy Brickley

Andy Brickley

NESN Bruins analyst Andy Brickley joined Mut & Merloni on Wednesday to talk about the Bruins and the most recent questionable play by Brad Marchand.

Marchand, the controversial B’s winger, was penalized two minutes for boarding after hitting Sean Monahan in Tuesday’s win over the Flames. Calgary‘s Curtis Glencross called it a “dirty hit” by a “dirty player.”

“Yeah, it’s a bad hit. He’s looking right at Monahan’s numbers,” Brickley said. “If you ask Brad, he’ll tell you he thought it was just a little forceful push and not heavy body contact. But it’s still on the numbers, on a guy that — he knew Marchand was there. When you watch the replay, he take a look over his left shoulder, which is the right thing to do for Monahan; you want to survey what’s going on around you. That puck’s not going anywhere, so you take a look to see what’s going on behind you and left and right and then make your play. So, he knew Marchand was right there, and Marchand decided to give him that little extra forearm shiver/push/hit, whatever you want to describe it.

“That’s a two-minute penalty for boarding. It’s a good call. It’s a bad penalty to take. It’s a bad timely penalty to take. And I just think it’s part of what’s going on with Marchand right now, that he’s trying to figure his game out and he’s overthinking it right now. He’s just got to go out and read and react, play the game. But the hard part for him is he needs to play on the edge in order to be the most effective player he can.”

Regarding the possibility of benching Marchand, Brickley said that’s not likely considering the number of injuries among the team.

“They’re just so short on numbers right now; what are their options?” Brickley said. “If they wanted to reduce his ice time, if they wanted to — like they did with Milan Lucic late in the year last year, make him a healthy scratch so he gets up on [TD Garden Level] 9 and takes a look at things and realizes there’s a lot more he could be doing.

“One of the things that jump out at you when you watch Marchand play, when he’s playing well — and it could be at any time during the game, he could have six, seven real good shifts in the course of a 20-shift night where he’s really, really effective, and he’s using his feet, and he’s skating, he attacks the offensive zone, he backs the D off then he curls up and he looks for a guy coming late. But what he’s doing right now, even when he makes a good play, he stops skating. And when you stop skating, that tells you you’re overthinking it. And when you start to overthink it, now you just don’t play the game in rhythm and you just don’t do things naturally.

“And I think that’s what they’re trying to educate him on and remind him of, that’s the way you need to play. Because when you get into that no-man’s land, you’re not the player you’re going to be. But what are your options in order to get that message across? Right now, because they are just so shorthanded, they need Brad Marchand and they need him to play to his capabilities or somewhere close to that in order to be effective. Because they need to win and they need to put up points.
And he’s still probably your best option, even though you might want to try to do something else to get further attention.”

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Shawn Thornton to appeal 15-game suspension 12.16.13 at 4:17 pm ET
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According to a league source, Bruins forward Shawn Thornton has decided to appeal the 15-game suspension that he was assessed Saturday for his attack on Brooks Orpik of the Penguins.

In the new collective bargaining agreement, players are allowed to appeal suspensions, first to commissioner Gary Bettman and then with a neutral arbitrator. Thornton is the second player to appeal a suspension, as Sabres forward Patrick Kaleta appealed his 10-game suspension earlier this season and was denied by the commissioner. He did not take it to a neutral arbitrator.

Thornton has not played the last four games and is set to sit out the next 11 before being eligible to return Jan. 11 against the Sharks in San Jose. He practiced with the Bruins Monday.

The Boston Herald’s Steve Conroy was the first to report the appeal, with the NHLPA since announcing the appeal.

For more Bruins coverage, visit weei.com/bruins.

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Shawn Thornton, Adam McQuaid practice with Bruins; Jarome Iginla absent at 10:57 am ET
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Adam McQuaid

Adam McQuaid

WILMINGTON — The Bruins returned to practice Monday after returning from a four-game Canadian road trip. Shawn Thornton, who has until 4 pm Monday to appeal his 15-game suspension, was on the ice.

Also present was forward Craig Cunningham, who appears to have been called up from Providence.

Adam McQuaid, who has not played since Nov. 30 with a lower-body injury, was on the ice for the B’s. Jarome Iginla, who suffered a hand injury Saturday but stayed in the game, did not practice. Injured Bruins Dougie Hamilton (lower-body, Loui Eriksson (concussion), Chris Kelly (lower-body) and Daniel Paille (upper-body) were also absent.

The lines were as follows:

Lucic – Krejci – Fraser
Marchand – Bergeron – Smith
Soderberg – Spooner – Johnson
Caron – Campbell – Cunningham/Thornton

Defensemen: Matt Bartkowski, Adam McQuaid, Zdeno Chara, Kevan Miller, Johnny Boychuk, Torey Krug Dennis Seidenberg

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Shawn Thornton consulting with Bruins, NHLPA about ‘next steps’ 12.14.13 at 6:18 pm ET
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Shawn Thornton

Shawn Thornton

Bruins forward Shawn Thornton said the following in a statement released by the team following the announcement of his 15-game suspension Saturday:

“I am aware of today’s ruling by the NHL Department of Player Safety. I will be consulting with the Bruins, my representation and the NHLPA about next steps, and will be in a position to address the matter publicly after speaking with those parties. Until then I will have no further comment.”

The “next steps” to which Thornton refers is the option of appealing the suspension. Under the new collective bargaining agreement, players can appeal suspensions that are for more than six games. Such appeals first go to the commissioner, and then to a neutral arbitrator. Players have 48 hours after their ruling to appeal.

If Thornton is to appeal the suspension, he will be the second player to do so this season. Sabres winger Patrick Kaleta appealed his 10-game suspension in October but did not take it any further after after his ban was upheld by Gary Bettman.

Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli also offered a statement on the suspension, though he had little to say.

“We respect the process including the ability to attend and present our case in person,” Chiarelli said. “At this time, we will decline comment until the process is complete and Shawn has exhausted all rights available to him.”

Under Thornton’s 15-game suspension, of which he has served three games already, he is currently in line to be eligible to return to the Bruins lineup on Jan. 11 in San Jose.

For more on the Bruins, visit weei.com/bruins.

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