Sep 23, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Bruins right wing Shawn Thornton (22) skates in the offensive zone during the third period against the Washington Capitals at TD Banknorth Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

A former Penguin and Bruin weighs in on Saturday’s mess.

There is still fallout coming from Saturday’s hockey game between the Boston Bruins and the Pittsburgh Penguins. James Neal has been handed a five game suspension for his hit on Brad Marchand (a penalty that Penguins GM Roy Shero believes is appropriate and fair), and were all waiting to see what fate will befall Shawn Thornton for his jumping Brooks Orpik and pummeling him to the ice. With obvious tensions on both sides, I thought I’d look for an opinion of someone who has been on both sides of the argument and can offer a clear line.

I found Rick Tocchet, who played for both the Penguins(1991-94) and the Bruins(1995-97).  Tocchet seems to be on both sides here with his argument. He believes that Orpik did not deserve what happened to him (and neither do I), but Oprik maybe should have dropped the gloves to have defused the tension from his early hit against Loui Eriksson that started the bad blood flowing early.

“I love Brooks and the way he plays,” Tocchet said in Pittsburgh to the media. “But, when you play on the edge the way he does, I personally think that you should fight, at least occasionally. I don’t think Brooks is a dirty player at all, but when you play that style, you’re going to have some borderline hits on occasion. They’re impossible to ignore. So I think it would serve him well to fight some of the time.”

When asked if he thought that fighting reduces dirty hits, the eighteen year NHL veteran and former head coach was up front with his opinion.

“I truly do,” he said. “Look at what happened last night. You know coming into the game that Boston is sensitive because [Bruins' blueliner Johnny] Boychuk just got hurt [in the Montreal game]. And you know the Penguins and Bruins don’t like each other. So when you hit one of their best players on the first shift, even though the hit was totally clean, you know things could get nasty.”

If you watched the game, or even the highlights, you saw just how nasty things got.


Tags: Boston Bruins National Hockey League Shawn Thornton

  • SalemNHcitizen

    I agree with Tocchet that Orpik didn’t deserve to get knocked out. However, I disagree that the hit on Eriksson was clean. If you watch the play in full speed you see Orpik line Eriksson up. Loui never touched the puck before he was hit (destroyed really).

    If the NHL really wants to clean up hockey they need to look at the play of the “marquee” names. The likes of Crosby, Malkin, and Ovechkin take liberties with their sticks like nobody else. Watch them away from the puck, or in a scrum after a whistle (while protected by the refs and other players) and their hacking, slashing and punching away. When challenged one-on-one they run away like cockroaches from light. The NHL is so hell-bent on driving more TV revenue with flashy goals like the one Neal scored coming out of the box Saturday that they punish teams like the Bruins who play a defense-first style of hockey.

    Pittsburgh loves the flashy play (see Mario Lemieux) but not physical hockey so they employ guys like Ulf Samuelson, Matt Cooke, and Brooks Orpik. They are big guys who like to hit and instigate other teams but never answer the bell when it rings. You want to clean up hockey? Get rid of helmets. Since that’s not going to happen it’s time to clean up the slashing, boarding and cross-checking. Chris Kelly is out 6-8 weeks because Pascal Dupuis couldn’t handle getting manhandled by Kelly. What does he do after the puck goes by, turns and chops at Kelly’s ankle like he’s splitting wood. No call by the ref, but everyone on the B’s bench saw it. Now what do they want to do-exact revenge. One of the team captains, and arguable most consistent players, goes down on a cheap shot someone should pay.

    If Shanahan and the NHL want to set an example it’s not going to come from Thornton. Everyone, himself included, knows he was wrong. It’s going to come when they put guys like Neal, Dupuis, and Orpik on the shelf for 8-10 games without pay, and with substantial fines for their infractions. The NFL doled out over $100K in fines last week on players (that didn’t come into contact with officials) for hits. If the NHL really, really, wanted to clean up the game they could. But they want the TV revenue so they will continue to protect the Sindey Crosby’s of the game so they can score their pretty goals and get more people watching.