BOSTON (CBS) – Boston Bruins president Cam Neely joined 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Felger & Mazz on Thursday to talk hockey and all things Bruins.

Neely said he should refrain from talking about Shawn Thornton’s incident, with his hearing scheduled for tomorrow, but he did open up about the hits that led to Thornton’s actions.

Neely said he wasn’t “overly thrilled” with Brooks Orpik’s hit on Loui Eriksson, as the forward couldn’t see the hit coming.

“Loui’s playing the right side, he’s a left-handed shot playing the right side, the puck went behind him,” explained Neely. “I still haven’t really had an opportunity to see if in fact the puck did hit him anywhere. But what I do know, when it came off the boards, it came behind him, and him being a left-handed shot, he was looking the opposite way than he would be if he were a right-handed shot. He certainly had no clue that Orpik was coming.”

“I felt that if the puck was in front of him and not behind him, I’d feel better about the hit,” he said. “When I saw it live, I probably thought it was a good hit, but then seeing it slowed down and replayed, you think it may be a little questionable. But that always happens when you have the time to look at replays.”

Neely had plenty of criticism for the knee that James Neal delivered to the head of Brad Marchand.

“I certainly hated the knee to the head of Marchand. I know Brad can get under players’ skin and that helps him, but guys have to control their emotions,” he said. “I was not surprised by the suspension. If it was longer, it wouldn’t have surprised me either. You watch that play … and he clearly moved his knee to target the head.”

As for the ever-raging debate about fighting’s place in the NHL, Neely said he still strongly believes that fighting plays an important role in the league.

“Obviously there is a strong push from certain reporters on both sides of the border who are talking every chance they can get about getting fighting out of the game. I think if they spend as much time and energy talking about that, or talking about head shots — and I’m not talking about a punch to the head as much as I am a knee to the head or a shoulder to the head or hits from behind — those to me have more of an impact for player safety than a fight does, in my opinion.

“As much as I respect that everybody has an opinion about our game, when you’re on the ice, and you know all of the things that go on on the ice, whether it’s conversations, whether it’s a little stickwork that gets lost behind the scenes, I think if you have an opportunity to settle things by dropping your gloves, I think it’s far better than settling things in different ways. I think that’s why I believe that needs to be left in the game.

“The other thing I concern myself with is that everybody would be a tough guy. There won’t be one guy that’s not tough in the league if there’s no fighting.”

With Brendan Shanahan’s office working overtime with all of the recent suspensions in the league, Neely said the general consensus among those in charge of the league feel it’s on the players’ shoulders now to simply adjust to the rules that are firmly in place.

“I think the players really have to get a grip on it. At the Board of Governors meetings, Shanahan spoke that it’s not so much that they want to suspend players, it’s more like the players need to start understanding what they can and cannot do out there,” Neely said. “I know it’s an emotional game and it’s an emotional sport and tempers flare, but ultimately you can hand out all of these suspensions you want … really the players are the ones that have to figure this one out.

“Really, there’s been a better understanding of what they can and cannot do as far as hits in the heads, but then you see some incidents that happen and you wonder if it’ll ever get out of the game. But you certainly hope it will.”


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