I can’t say I totally agree with this as I do think that there is some honour amongst players. I actually think there’s a lot more than people think. Although the play below and then the following article make it pretty hard to say that it does exist.
When talking the dirtiest players in the game Thornton’s name doesn’t come up. But, that doesn’t mean this isn’t an awful play. See it below, read the article & then jump back to our page on FB and join the conversation.
What We Learned: R.I.P. The Code (Never-2013)
Whenever you needed to be talked down to about The Respect In The Game and How Players Police Themselves and all that kind of thing, your first and last stop should have been Thornton, the acknowledged quote factory on all things pugilistic. This was a fact ESPN’s Katie Strang knew, and a resource she tapped, last week.
Asked if the code still exists and if he still takes pride in it, Thornton said, “People could probably criticize that I’m a little too honorable, I suppose, in some instances. I’ve been a firm believer my whole life that what goes around comes around. If you’re one of those guys that suckers someone when they’re down or you go after somebody that doesn’t deserve it or isn’t the same category as you, that will come back and bite you at some point, too.”
And so it’s very interesting indeed that at the first opportunity to show once again that he is “too honorable,” he slewfooted and pummeled a downed opponent with three gloved punches while that player was already tied up with another Bruin and some officials. This kind of thing, of course, runs completely counter to The Code that Thornton holds so dear, and for which he’ll attempt to proselytize at the slightest provocation.
Even going by the very loose above explanation imparted to Strang, this attack checked all three of Thornton’s own boxes for not being part of The Code:
1) He suckered Orpik when he was down, and indeed, only got him down in the first place with a slewfoot. That, by the way and just incidentally I’m sure, is considered one of the dirtiest and most dangerous plays in hockey.
2) The idea that Orpik “deserved it” is — despite what many Bruins fans and reporters (see Item 4: “Unfortunately he plays on the edge without a willingness to drop the gloves, and that can be a magnet for increased physical punishment in the NHL. Still no excuse for Thornton’s actions however.” That only sounds like an excuse because it is one.) — iffy at best. He certainly concussed Loui Eriksson, but the check was borderline. It’s the kind of hit that happens too often, but is part of the game (and I’d argue needs to be taken out). This was acknowledged on the Bruins’ own broadcast by color man Andy Brickley.
3) Orpik is under no circumstances “in the same category” as Thornton, who is admittedly one of the league’s few slightly-useful enforcers, but he still only plays eight minutes a night, and has for the past few seasons. The days of him averaging 10-plus because he’s good defensively never came back after the lockout, and he’s an all-out detriment to the Bruins every time he climbs over the boards; despite the fourth-easiest zone starts against the softest opponents Claude Julien can find him, Thornton’s Corsi-for is the second-worst on the team. He is at this point not much better than any other six-minutes-a-night guy. Meanwhile, Orpik gets legitimate minutes against tough competition, and is therefore well outside the kind of brawlers against whom Thornton usually finds himself throwing.
The fact that Thornton just ascended to the throne as the NHL’s sitting King Hypocrite, following a few unfulfilled attempts by the man himself to make Orpik pay for his transgression, somehow failed to make him abdicate his role as King of The Code. Thus did the media begin circling the wagons in defense of their guy because he occasionally uses the F word in interviews and doesn’t give boring quotes (presumably because he has so much time sitting on the bench to think up his various quips).
The “Orpik had it coming” crowd was, again, out in full force, but other excuses, including “What reasonable enforcer wouldn’t treat Orpik like a Soc who walked into Greaser territory after those two hits?” came as well. So too was the, “That was out of line, but…” crowd, which consisted of most of the Boston media, but also included coach Claude Julien. After the game, he deemed the mugging an “unfortunate incident,” though failed to make clear exactly what part of the whole situation he found to actually be a spot of bad luck.
Getty ImagesIt is indeed worth noting that the play that seems to have sent Thornton over the edge, a knee by James Neal to Brad Marchand, was depthlessly dirty and inexcusable. Neal has a history of targeting players’ heads, and this is no different. Ugly, dirty play and he’ll deserve more than the suspension of five games or fewer that is handed down by the league.
That thing above about playing on the edge and not being willing to back it up, by the way, applies doubly to Marchand, because he sometimes goes over the edge, having been suspended twice in his four-year NHL career, but has only four fights in that time. Orpik hasn’t fought since 2009, it’s true, but he also hasn’t been suspended since 2006. Maybe that’s what Thornton talks about when he says what goes around comes around. You know that old saying, “Two wrongs make a right.” What’s that? That’s not the saying? Strange how the only difference between The Code and The Code of Hammurabi is that the latter existed at one point.
The Code, in the end, is like how you hate when people cut you off in traffic, but then sometimes you do it to someone else, but it’s OK because you’re late and your boss yelled at you and eh, you weren’t really even paying attention so what’s that guy beeping about? Maybe if you just wave at him it’ll all be fine.
That led of course, to the first annual Shawn Thornton is Classy and Would Never Do This Parade that started out immediately, marshaled by Thornton himself, who had tears in his eyes, I guess, as he swore up and down that he feels so, so, so, so bad about this and that hospitalizing Orpik — with whom he regularly worked out during the lockout — wasn’t his intention. However, one has to question what, exactly, he did intend by slewfooting his ol’ buddy and throwing gloved punches at his face. It would seem to anyone else that when you do that kind of thing, a one-punch KO is exactly what you’re looking for. The extra shots were just a fun bonus. But maybe Thornton’s right though; the quizzical look on his face as he was being escorted off the ice was one of a caveman asked to do calculus.
The tearful apology was of course a carefully crafted PR move and nothing more. So much contrition. I’m sure in the next day or so — or perhaps, by the time you read this, it will have already happened — that we’ll hear about the hat-in-hand text he sends to Orpik expressing his deepest regrets. This is the kind of good guy Thornton is, we’ll be told.
But if he was really a good guy, he wouldn’t have done this at all, and you can’t call it temporary insanity when all you’ve done for the last five years is stand as the league’s self-appointed arbiter of what is and is not honorable (as long as the Bruins aren’t the wrongdoers, because that’s when his moral authority stops being something to which the world must appeal).
We heard so much in the wake of the Scott/Kessel incident that guys like that can’t do things like this to respectable players, and that they have to control themselves even when things get hot. Here’s a real Julien quote on the subject:
“If a guy chooses to be that and a team chooses to have a guy like that, I don’t know. But I’ll never tell Shawn Thornton to go after Sidney Crosby or anybody else that’s a top player in this league. I’ll never do that. So if he does, it’s on his own. And if he does it on his own, I don’t think personally I’d accept it.”
Orpik isn’t a top player, and Julien almost certainly didn’t ask for Orpik’s blood, but here we are. Julien was plenty accepting on Saturday night. The appearance now is that these players are little more than animals being held by a rather flimsy cage which they are honor-bound to not break out of. Then when they do, it’s the animal’s fault.
What’s to be done? The takeaway logically has to be that when even supposed lawmen like Thornton turn into dirty cops, then the justice system has to be reformed.
Except Thornton, though. This was an isolated incident, because he’d never attacked a good player like this before. After all, he’d never been suspended in his 14-year pro career.
Funny, that sounds like someone. Oh right, John Scott had never been suspended either, until he took Eriksson’s head off. But he’s a beast who needs to be run out of the league, and Thornton is still classy, the ultimate practitioner of The Code.
I guess it’s true what they say: It’s good to be the king.