Bruins enforcer Shawn Thornton was suspended for 15 games Saturday, the NHL announced.
Thornton pulled the Penguins’ Brooks Orpik to the ice in the first period of their game at TD Garden on Dec. 7 as a confrontation began between Bruins and Penguins players. After Orpik fell, Thornton punched him several times in the head.
“This cannot be described as a hockey play that went bad, nor do we consider this a spontaneous reaction to an incident that just occurred. Rather, it is our view that this was an act of retribution for an incident that occurred earlier in the game. The result of this action by Thornton was a serious injury to Orpik,” the NHL said in a video on its website to explain the ruling.
Thornton received a match penalty and was ejected, and was immediately suspended. He had a hearing with the NHL’s Player Safety Department, headed by former player Brendan Shanahan, on Friday in New York.
“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,” Thornton said via a team press release.
Thornton was remorseful after the game.
“I feel awful,” Thornton said after the Dec. 7 game. “It wasn’t my intention for that outcome. I know Brooksie. I’ve gotten to know him over the last seven years here. I skate with him in the summer and through the lockout. I’ve texted him a couple times. I feel awful. It’s not what I wanted to see or what anybody wanted to see.”
The incident followed two other rough moments in the game. Orpik knocked the Bruins’ Loui Eriksson out of the game with a big hit – Eriksson suffered a concussion – and the Penguins’ James Neal struck Boston’s Brad Marchand with his knee as he skated by Marchand, who had fallen to the ice at the time.
Neal was suspended five games.
“We respect the process including the ability to attend and present our case in person. At this time, we will decline comment until the process is complete and Shawn has exhausted all rights available to him,” Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said, also via the team press release.
The Bruins are in Vancouver to take on the Canucks Saturday night in the final game of a four-game Canadian road trip.
Thornton will be eligible to return to the Bruins Jan. 11 vs. the Sharks in San Jose. It is his first suspension, but it will cost him $84,615.45 in lost pay, according to the NHL. The forfeited salary will be donated to the Players Emergency Assistance Fund, the NHL said.
TSN’s Darren Dreger was first to report the news Saturday.