The NHL announced one of the longest suspensions in league history just shy of seven days after last Saturday’s incident, which marred the latest edition of the burgeoning Penguins-Bruins feud. Thornton received a match penalty for tripping Orpik from behind and punching him twice in the head while he lay on the ice.
Thornton, who was profusely apologetic afterward, was apparently seeking revenge for Orpik’s legal check on Bruins center Loui Eriksson earlier in the game. Eriksson suffered a concussion on the crushing hit, and Thornton unsuccessfully tried to provoke Orpik into fighting soon after.
Shanahan called Thornton’s actions “retribution gone wrong” in a video explaining his decision. The Bruins winger will lose nearly $85,000 in salary while sitting out; he has not played while waiting for his day in NHL court.
Since the NHL has traditionally tailored its suspensions to the injury resulting from illegal acts, Thornton’s punishment probably would’ve been harsher had Orpik’s condition been worse. The unconscious Orpik was carted off the ice on a stretcher, but was soon alert and flew back to Pittsburgh with the Penguins later that night.
Also, Thornton had no prior league discipline on his record, making calls for a 20-game suspension seem like wishful thinking. As it stands, Thornton will be out until mid-January, while Orpik rehabilitates from his concussion. The longest tenured member of the Pens did some light skating Friday as part of the usual recovery protocol.
Here’s Shanahan’s video: