Shawn Thorton and James Neal's Acts Continue Embarrassment for the NHL by @MadChad412 - PensInitiative | Pittsburgh Penguins Blog | Rumors | News

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Monday, December 9, 2013

Shawn Thorton and James Neal's Acts Continue Embarrassment for the NHL by @MadChad412

I truly love the game of hockey. I love everything about it, the speed, the skill of the professional players, and the hitting that comes along with the game. What I do not love is guys that play the game maliciously assault other players during a sanctioned game. The NHL is a league that hasn't quite figured out that it is it's own worst enemy. While the league has grown in popularity, it's many cavemen-like violent acts are turning more and more fans off ever so often. While I understand that fighting is and has always been apart of the sport of hockey, at least at the pro level, what Shawn Thornton did  to Brooks Orpik during the Boston Bruins-Pittsburgh Penguins game this past Saturday night had nothing to do with the sport of hockey. It was an egregious act and the Bruins and the entire NHL should be embarrassed. 

I've already read multiple narratives about what Thornton did from fans, bloggers, writers, players, and analysts on both the Boston side and the Pittsburgh side. I understand that Thornton was upset about the hit that Brooks Orpik put on Bruins' winger Loui Eriksson and I understand that he may have also been upset about James Neal kneeing Brad Marchand in the head. That being said, this is a sport, it's not a gang fight. What Thornton did to Orpik, slew-footing him from behind, while Orpik was engaged with another player, is cowardly enough as it is. But the fact that Thornton continued to mount Orpik, who was pinned against the ice surface, and continuously punch him in the head is one of the most vicious and uncalled for acts in NHL history. 

What Thornton did was a crime. There are talks about suspending him and the punishment needs to be one of the more severe ones to prove that these kind of acts are unacceptable. From everything that I've heard and seen, this was a premeditated attack by Thornton. This was aggravated assault with intent to injure. I'm no lawyer, but I bet Orpik could pressed charges if he wanted to. 

Anyone who condones what Thornton did is completely delusional and quite honestly not someone who I would want to associate with. There is this underlying "code" in hockey that I guess Orpik broke Saturday night by turning down Thornton's request to a fight. Orpik is on record as saying that he doesn't want fighting in hockey. Since Orpik didn't want to fight Thorton, Thorton decided to attack him and forced Orpik to leave on a stretcher. What's sad and embarrassing is there's a lot of people that are ok with this sort of thing. 

Orpik's hit Eriksson early in the game and the play could have perhaps been called for interference.However, if you notice Eriksson did touch the puck before Orpik made contact, and there was an official watching standing right there. It certainly wasn't a dirty hit in any regards. It wasn't and the Bruins were obviously upset about that. Orpik is known for handing out big hits and that's all he was doing there. Orpik's hit on Eriksson was not dirty and he certainly shouldn't be forced to engage in a fist-fight because of it. Remember that the game of ice-hockey is a contact sport. If you don't want yourself or your teammates to get hit either do a better job of avoiding them or go play basketball.

Boston media members, fans, and other NHL analysts added more delusional and caveman-type opinions on the Thornton incident by suggesting that Orpik could have "avoided the entire situation by fighting Thornton". Andy Brickley, one of the commentators for the Bruins even said that Orpik should have "Manned up". Thanks for the laugh Andy. Dave Reid of NHL Network, who also used to play for Boston added his thoughts as well: "I feel bad for Thornton. He was standing up for his teammate. Taking care of business." Direct quote. I didn't know that in order to take care of business in the NHL you had to sneak-attack an opposing player and put them on a stretcher.

This insane way of thinking, they're basically saying it's ok to assault a player from behind and make them leave a game on a stretcher because you were upset with the way they were playing the game of hockey. Anyone who is trying to downplay or even excuse what Thornton did is a joke and there's really nothing else you can say about that. 

The notion that the players should police themselves is also a joke. What in the Hell are the paid officials out there for? Would you let students run a school without a principle and a staff? Would you let inmates police themselves in a prison? No. The NHL needs to do something before any more acts like this happen. Remember that the NHL is already facing numerous lawsuits because of concussions to ex-players, and once again if I'm Orpik I'm certainly seeking legal action. 

Even more embarrassing for the NHL, there were at least two other violent incidents that took place this past Saturday and one of them happened in the same game. Marchand got tripped up by Sidney Crosby and was laying on the ice surface when Penguins' forward James Neal skated by and kneed Marchand in the head. Much like Thornton's assault, the knee to the head by Neal is unwarranted and has no place in the game of hockey. 

I'm proud of most Pens' fans because I have yet to see any Pens' fan try to excuse or defend what Neal did. Unlike a lot of Boston fans, who use the Neal incident to excuse what Thornton did. Neal deserves to be punished as well and I'm sure he'll get a few games. Bruins fans can't seem to come to criticize their own teams and understand that their player, like Neal, committed a violent play that does not need to be committed during a hockey game. Whether you're a Pens' fans or a Bruins' fan, defending what Neal or Thorton did does not make you a better fan. Defending them as a fan does not make you a loyal fan; it makes you an idiot. 

As for Neal; he had a phone interview with the league regarding his punishment and received a five-game suspension for his act. I'm fine with that result although I would have liked to have seen more, just so this kind of stuff can be deterred a bit. It's about sending a message to everyone around the league! This is not the kind of stuff hockey fans want to see and if you're one of the few who enjoys this violence you need to be psychologically evaluated as soon as possible. Fighting in hockey can be OK but remember these incidents were not fights. What Neal did was dirty and as a fan of Neal and the Pens he needs to clean up his game.

Then there's the argument about intent. The intent of both Neal and Thorton. Both players basically tried to plead not-guilty after the game, saying that they didn't "intend" to do what they did. Or maybe Thorton just meant he didn't intend to knock another human unconscious. When it comes to Neal, if that's another Penguin laying on the ice instead of Marchand does he try to avoid him? That's where intent comes into play. Thorton skated from the other zone to attack Orpik from behind. Both players had intent to do what they did, now they're just trying to avoid as much punishment as possible. 

Thornton's attack was obviously the worst of the two and he should be punished to the furthest extent by the NHL. Boston fans have been upset about Matt Cooke's actions for years and were even bringing Cooke up last night to try and defend Thorton. Most of Cooke's incidents involved dirty hits, what Thornton did was not a hockey play, it was an all out assault on another human being. It was something the "Average Joe" goes to jail for. I'm not defending Cooke, he committed a bunch of acts that he should have been punished for and he was. Cooke has since changed the way he plays for the good. The NHL also made an example out of Cooke and punished him severely multiple times. Now it's time for the NHL to do the same with Thornton.

Luckily, Orpik is going to be ok. However, will the NHL be so lucky next time? What if Orpik would have had his career ended because of this? What if Thorton had ended Orpik's life? What if the results are worse in the next incident?

If Thornton doesn't get suspended for more than 10 games this stuff will not stop any time soon. My personal opinion is that Thorton should get at least 20 games, if not more. It's too easy for teams to employ scumbags like Thorton that will go out and injure superior players on opposing teams, because they know the punishment will never fit the crime. Players should never have to leave an arena on a stretcher because of an unexpected assault from an opposing player, that along with these delusional opinions of how this stuff could have been avoided by fist fighting is a big reason why the NHL continues to be nothing more than a niche sport in America. Instead of talking about a good game between two good teams, or a highlight reel save or goal, we're stuck discussing violent acts and thuggish behavior that have nothing to do with the actual sport, again making the NHL it's own worst enemy. 

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