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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.

Read More: Gary Bettman, Shawn Thornton,
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.

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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Read More: Chris Nilan, Milan Lucic, Shawn Thornton, White Bulger
Andy Brickley on M&M: Brad Marchand ‘overthinking it right now’ 12.18.13 at 12:00 pm ET
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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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Read More: Andy Brickley, Brad Marchand, Sean Monahan, Shawn Thornton
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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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

Read More: Jarome Iginla, Shawn Thornton,
Shawn Thornton consulting with Bruins, NHLPA about ‘next steps’ 12.14.13 at 6:18 pm ET
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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.

Read More: Shawn Thornton,
No priors needed: Shawn Thornton’s attack deserved lengthy ban at 5:23 pm ET
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Shawn Thornton was suspended 15 games for attacking Brooks Orpik.

Think what you want to think about it, but as you form your opinion, don’€™t forget that the punishment was over that act. By Brendan Shanahan giving Thornton 15 games (the longest regular-season Shanaban to date), he was saying that Thornton’s actions were worth a 15-game suspension.

[Yup, that lede just said the same thing three times. Hopefully one of them took.]

The ban was greeted with fans and media taking umbrage with the fact that a suspension of that length was given to clean a player who had never been suspended previously.

 

We all know what kind of a player Thornton is and that he’s as big a class act as any Boston athlete. We also know that whether a player is a repeat offender (meaning they’ve been suspended within the last 18 months, according to the league) is considered in these things, but does being a clean player mean Thornton’s deplorable actions last Saturday shouldn’t be treated as seriously as they were?

Thornton isn’t a dirty player, but watch the incident on its own and remember that Shanahan’s job was to give a suspension based on what happened between the whistles in the first period of that game. Fight that urge to say ‘€œBut James Neal…’€ and watch the video.

It was really, really, bad.

Not that you care, but the reaction here? Admittedly, it was more than I expected — when I saw it live, I thought it was worth at least 10, then I settled at 10 — but then again we haven’t seen many incidents with comparable circumstances and outcomes as what happened last Saturday. If you thought a double-digit suspension was deserved, it’€™s hard to be outraged by 15.

Track record is something that can be of obvious benefit when determining whether a player deserves to be punished for a hit. If a player is known for cheap shots, they shouldn’t get the benefit of the doubt on a borderline dirty play.

Yet the incident for which Thornton was punished wasn’t one based on a matter of split seconds, the principal point of contact or whether somebody turned. It was as black and white as it gets. It was somebody at a stoppage of play going up behind another player, kicking their feet out from under them and punching them in the head repeatedly, including when the victim was down. There’s no question of how it happened or what the intent was.

‘€œThis cannot be described as a hockey play that went bad, nor can we consider this a spontaneous reaction to an incident that just occurred,’€ Shanahan said in the video explaining the suspension.

Fifteen games is a long time. It’€™s three times what Neal got for sticking his leg out and kneeing Brad Marchand in the head. That’€™s a tough pill to swallow for Bruins fans, and it should be. Neal deserved more than a phone hearing, and considering he’€™d been suspended twice before, five games was light.

It’€™s easy to get distracted when forming an opinion over the Thornton incident. The fact that he’€™s a clean player, the fact that he was responding to a hit he didn’€™t like and the fact that Neal wasn’€™t properly punished cloud things, but don’€™t forget that the reason Thornton’€™ won’€™t be playing until Jan. 11 is because of his attack on Orpik.

Being a good guy or a clean player doesn’€™t make it any better or any worse. Thornton’€™s actions were deserving of a big punishment and that’€™s what they got.

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