February 21, 2013; Tampa FL, USA; Boston Bruins right wing Shawn Thornton (22) skates with the puck against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the third period at Tampa Times Forum. The Bruins won 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Shawn Thornton: Boston Bruins loss is Florida Panthers gain

Back in the 2002-2003 season, a little known winger named Shawn Thornton got his first chance to play at the NHL level. At the time he was playing for the Norfolk Admirals of the AHL. He ended up playing thirteen games at the NHL level that season, all for the Chicago Blackhawks. Dale Tallon was part of the Blackhawks front office that initially saw the NHL potential in Thornton, and helped him achieve that dream.

Twelve years later, Dale Tallon is now the general manager of the Florida Panthers. Now, Tallon and Shawn Thornton will be working together to help raise the Panthers’ profile among NHL franchises. The Panthers signed Thornton to a two year deal which means the former Bruins enforcer will likely finish his career without getting a chance to wear the Black and Gold again.

In Shawn Thornton’s career in Boston, he put up seventy six points(thirty four goals) for the Bruins. He ended up with a plus/minus of -7, and 748 minutes in penalties. He also proved himself to be a leader on the team, a pillar of the community, and one of the nicest people you would never want to drop the gloves with.

“I’ve worked very hard over the last sixteen years to become more than a one dimensional hockey player,” Thornton said (courtesy of the Florida Panthers website). “I think that I bring other things to the table. I am smart defensively, and pretty good positionally, and every once and awhile, I surprise people.”

Boston’s loss is certainly Florida’s gain here.  It wouldn’t surprise me to see Thornton wearing an “A” or even a “C” on his jersey with Florida. It’s not often the Panthers can claim to have a two-time Stanley Cup winner on their active roster. He’ll be an important piece of a very aggressive fourth line in Sunrise.

Dale Tallon knows what kind of player he got in Thornton, and he’s happy to sing his praises. “A long time ago we started off together,” said Tallon of Thornton. “I signed him to his first contract. He can play it any way you want. He’ll surprise you with his skills and he’ll score some highlight-film goals, but he knows his role.  His fitness level is incredible, his nutrition.”

“He’ll really be a great leader in our locker room for our young guys.  He’ll show them the way. He and Derek [Panthers' center Derek MacKenzie] will really make a good tandem. It’ll be hard to play against. It’s a fourth line that will play with a lot of energy and enthusiasm and toughness.”

“You spend seven and a half years somewhere, you’re going to have a lot of ties and you’re going to have a lot of memories. I was fortunate to be on a pretty good team the last five years that I was here, so it was a lot of fond memories. But I’m excited for the next chapter.” – Shawn Thornton  

“Florida was my first choice.” said Thornton to the Panthers media. “I like where the team is going. I obviously know Dale[Tallon] from Chicago. I love the area. I’ve already been down a couple of times checking it out with the wife. We’re really, really excited to be a part of it.”

A lot of Bruins fans hold Shawn Thornton in high esteem.  He was one of the players the unconditionally smiled for the fans. His charitable works brought hundreds of thousands of dollars to local charities under the auspices of the Shawn Thornton foundation.  Over the last few years, Bruins-Panthers tickets have been rather easy to acquire. It’s a safe bet those tickets will be harder to come by when Shawn Thornton returns with the Panthers to take on the Black and Gold on November 4th.

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