Will Shawn Thornton Put His Money Where His Mouth Is?

Image courtesy of Dan4th Nicholas (CC)

We’re about to learn just how sorry Shawn Thornton really is.

Earlier today, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced a 15-game suspension for Thornton’s brutal attack on Brooks Orpik.

Pierre LeBrun subsequently tweeted that Thornton is now deciding whether or not to appeal the suspension, which is a little curious in light of Thornton’s contrite post-game comments, including “I can’t say ‘I’m sorry’ enough.”

Does 15 games exceed the true boundary of what Thornton previously described as his boundless remorse?

If he appeals the suspension then we can draw one of three conclusions:

  1. He really did feel terrible in the immediate aftermath of the assault, but his view of his own actions has since changed.
  2. He was lying in the post-game media scrum.
  3. He was telling the truth and his feelings haven’t changed, but he is under pressure from someone (likely the NHLPA, his own agent and/or the Bruins organization) to appeal anyway.

Frankly, it would be hard to respect Thornton under any of these conditions. #1 makes him a liar – or at best a self-deluding moral relativist – who got caught in a moment of emotion-fueled truth; #2 makes him a liar who suffered no such moment; and #3 makes him weak; a pawn to those who claim to represent his interests but are instead, pushing him to do something he knows is wrong.

Like most people – like Thornton himself claimed to be – I am sickened by what Thornton did to the unsuspecting and therefore defenseless Orpik. That one event doesn’t have to define the man, though. If Thornton accepts his punishment with grace and honour then I will gladly extend the benefit of the doubt and view him as a good person who made a bad mistake. If he appeals, that interpretation is no longer available.

Brendan Shanahan decided that Thornton’s act was worth 15 games; the question now is whether Thornton believes 15 games is worth more than his integrity.

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