Felger: Bruins Fans Who Excuse Shawn Thornton Are No Better Than Canadiens Fans
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The following is a transcription from Michael Felger on Monday’s Felger & Massarotti program regarding Shawn Thornton’s actions against Brooks Orpik in Saturday night’s Penguins-Bruins game. It is edited from multiple segments for clarity and brevity.
The excuse-making for Shawn Thornton has been through the roof. There is no place in the game for what he did. There is no excuse for it.
And it is even worse for those of us who want fighting in the league. I think fighting is important to the league and for it to stay in the league. And for it to stay in the league, the fighters have got to stay inside the lines. Shawn Thornton has fought vehemently for fighting, and he is a great spokesman for fighting. He is a poster boy for guys fighting the right way and not getting hurt and staying within the code. He has been the perfect representative of that.
And when he goes and does something like that, he loses the moral high ground. We lose the moral high ground. And this gives everyone who wants fighting out of the game more of a platform. So it’s incumbent of Shawn more than anyone else to stay within the lines, and he knows it, and that’s why he was so crestfallen after the game. That’s why he was so despondent after the game.
He didn’t wait to face the music; he faced it right in the postgame locker room.
The worst part — he’s given ammo to the anti-fighting people. He’s given ammo to the all the people he’s been fighting verbally against for years, saying, “Look at me. Look at how I handle my job. I do it the right way.”
Shawn Thornton has 873 career penalty minutes, and he’s never been suspended. What a great statement that says, “We handle this like men, we do it on the up and up, we don’t try to injure people. Fighting is a part of the game and it’s a good part of the game and it actually keeps people safer. I fight a lot, but it’s never dirty, and you know it because I’ve never been suspended.”
And boy did Shawn really have a platform on which to speak, because he walked it and he talked it and he had never been suspended until now.
And here’s also what I hated — they were retaliating on a hit that I don’t think should have been retaliated for. The Brooks Orpik hit on Loui Eriksson was close. It was borderline. It wasn’t great, and I wouldn’t love it either if I were the Bruins, but I don’t think it was so dramatic that it necessitated Orpik fighting Thornton. Orpik’s not a fighter. I don’t think he’s fought in five years.
So Orpik might be another one of these cheap, rat Pittsburgh Penguins players. I think he is. He’s been suspended a couple of times, and he’s another one of those Pittsburgh Penguins rats. But he’s not a fighter, and the hit was at most questionable.
Shawn Thornton and Brooks Orpik are not supposed to go. You know that, and Shawn knows that and the team knows that. So when Orpik doesn’t take the fight, that doesn’t mean that you still owe him. No, no, no, no. You take a number and you line him up for a similar kind of hit when you get a chance down the road. But he’s not going to fight, and expecting him to take that fight is ridiculous.
There was irony here. ESPN did a story on Shawn Thornton last week where he talked about the code and his role as a fighter and fighting in hockey. And they quoted Cam Neely, on what he likes and dislikes about the fight game in the NHL. He has said these things to us, but I’ll just read you his quote: “I don’t like staged fights. I don’t like them and I never have. I don’t believe in a fight resulting because of a good, hard, clean body check. You see that a lot and I don’t understand that either. I can understand if somebody hits somebody in a position they shouldn’t, but when it’s a good, clean, hard body check, there shouldn’t be a need to come over and protect your teammate. The player that gets hit should take the number, like the old days, just take the number of the truck that just hit you.”
And so I see what he’s saying there. Just because you hit me on a good clean body check doesn’t mean we have to drop the gloves. Why has that become part of the code?
It’s not part of the code, and Thornton knows it’s not part of the code.
Now the extenuating circumstances with the Penguins is that they’re a bunch of cheap shot rats. They have been for a while, from Matt Cooke on down, and they play on that edge and they often play with an intent to injure that has to be addressed. James Neal gives that intentional knee to Brad Marchand, and the Bruins lose it. But you can’t lose it to the point where you slew-foot a guy and smash his head into the ice. You lose the moral high ground — you lose everything. You can’t do it. And Shawn knows it.
It was literally embarrassing that NESN would not give you that commentary. It was a joke. But Shawn was able to admit it. He knew it. He said it immediately after the game. He knows what he did.
You can’t let him off the hook. If you let him off the hook and you say excuse it any other way, do you know what you are? You’re a Montreal Canadiens fan. You’re no better.