NHL Commissioner Bettman upholds Shawn Thornton suspension.


Oct 14, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Bruins right wing

Shawn Thornton

(22) skates with the puck during the second period against the Detroit Red Wings at TD Banknorth Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The National Hockey League’s commissioner has decided to uphold the Department of Player Safety’s ruling that Boston Bruins Shawn Thornton be suspended fifteen games for his attacking Brooks Orpik in the middle of the Penguins-Bruins game on December 7th.  The NHLPA believed that the punishment (in light of other targeted attacks receiving only five or seven games) was excessive. They believed that Thornton should have only received a ten to twelve game suspension.

In the ruling, the commissioner lays down his argument for why he felt that the fifteen games was required.

“I reject the contention that a reduced suspension is justified by reference to suspensions imposed on other Players for similar conduct. I think it is worthwhile to repeat what I have said in prior opinions. The CBA does not prescribe a formula and the process of assessing discipline for on-ice conduct is

not an exact science, as evidenced by the Union’s own difficulty in offering a precise alternative for discipline here.”

You really have to admire the chutzpah on how Bettman defends Shanahan’s actions and somehow calls the players’ union a bunch of misguided idiots in three sentences, eh? Problem is, as soon as he is done validating the DoPS and insulting the union he makes a rather disingenuous comment himself.

“As I noted in my recent opinion concerning Patrick Kaleta, the protection of Players’ heads has been a matter of intense and increased attention over the course of several years. A Player who today blatantly flouts the rules in a manner that causes a head injury can and should expect to be severely disciplined.”

That last sentence really puts the Bettman stamp on the argument. With that intellectual master stroke, he up-ends the Department of Player Safety for giving James Neal only five games for deliberately targeting Brad Marchand‘s head with a knee, and giving John Scott seven games for crossing the length of ice to intentionally concussing Loui Eriksson. Well, at least we can all agree that it’s not an exact science.

In the end, Gary Bettman believed that the fifteen game was satisfactory. Here’s a Bettman quote brought to you by the Boston Globe’s Fluto Shinzawa.

It’s a pity that Bettman didn’t feel the same way about his four year disaster involving the Coyotes franchise and his desperate need to validate his ‘sunbelt hockey’ argument.

The NHLPA and Thornton can take this to an independent arbitrator if they file the motion before December 31st.  This would be the first time the arbitration rule had been invoked since the signing of the latest collective bargaining agreement. While I believe Thornton is entitled to a full and just legal process, I have to wonder if this would be the first stone thrown in a conflict that could only lead to another league/union showdown when the current CBA expires.

Shawn Thornton could not be reached for comment. He was too busy helping kids in the hospital get to the local movie theaters for Christmas Eve. (I’m completely serious.) So, Penguins fans get to enjoy a thrill of validation. Thankfully, that clean hit that Marc Methot put on Sidney Crosby (which Sid says was deliberate and targeted) that took out Pascal Dupuis will give the Pens fan base something new to scream about going into the new year.