(Look! A clown without makeup!)
Want to hear a joke? Reports streaming from TSN are saying the NHL is set to suspend Boston Bruins enforcer Shawn Thornton for fifteen games. Not laughing? Well neither is anyone else not named Shawn Thornton. If this is the official suspension then Thornton is walking away for the ugliest incident the NHL has seen in a decade with what amounts to a slap on the wrist and a stern 'now don't do that again, okay?'.
This is pathetic. The door was opened for Gary Bettman and Brendan Shanahan too declare a statement and knock this garbage out of the league for good. Leave it to Bettman, a supervillian on par with Lex Luthor and Doctor Doom before this, to shrink when the stakes rose. He handled this with politician hands, careful not to overly upset anyone. A learning moment has been completely wasted. A opportunity to clean the game up has been wasted. There was a sliver of hope the NHL would handle this right after the disappointing James Neal punishment, but that's all gone now. Quickly swept under the rug for no one to remember come January. The NHL waited more than a week to announce Thornton's suspension because they wanted tempers to die down. Well Gary, everyone's angry again. And again, you're the reason why. Its times like this where you shouldn't wonder why arenas explode with boos when you deliver the Stanley Cup. God help you the next time it's in Pittsburgh.
Fifteen games . . . it leaves a taste in your mouth like a double shot of vinegar followed by a sour milk chaser. Shawn Thornton may be a nice guy and he's never been suspended before but those credentials got tossed out the window when he slew-footed Brooks Orpik, socked him twice, and had to be pulled off of a unconscious man. Thornton can give a million dollars to the March of Dimes tomorrow but that doesn't make his actions last Saturday not classless. Dirty is dirty and near criminal is near criminal. Nothing past, present, or future can change that.
But Shawn Thornton's a nice guy. Great, that makes it all better. You hear that Brooks? You had to be carried off the ice via stretcher and placed on IR by a nice guy who said he was sorry and didn't mean to hurt you. Thornton's apology probably chiseled a game or two off his punishment.
Hopefully this report is not accurate. Hopefully this was a feeler released by Bettman. A crafty move by a spineless commissioner. Hopefully the actual suspension is longer. A lot longer. Because if this is the real thing, then the NHL and Bettman and Shanahan will have lost all remaining credibility they hand. And after the softness shown in the Todd Bertuzzi situation, there's not much left.
Maybe in another ten years when another guy does this, he can laugh at this joke along with Thornton.
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