BOSTON (CBS) — For seven seasons Shawn Thornton patrolled the ice for the Boston Bruins, and made an even bigger impact off of it.

A favorite among his teammates, coaches and fans, Thornton was a calming veteran presence in the locker room — despite his anything-but-calming demeanor. He knew when to have fun, but more importantly, he knew when it was time to get serious.

Over the offseason, the Bruins and Thornton parted ways. The day free agency opened he agreed to a two-year deal with the Florida Panthers, bringing his veteran tendencies to an up-and-coming team. It will be an odd feeling for the 11-year veteran when he returns to the TD Garden for the first time on Tuesday night, having to do everything from a visitor’s point of view.

“It’ll be weird. I’ve never dressed on the other side before. The first game I ever played in the Garden was with the B’s, so it’ll be definitely a little bit weird. But I’m excited,” Thornton told The Boston Globe on Monday. “It’ll be good to be back in there.”

While he may have been a fourth-line forward on paper, it was what Thornton did in his brief spurts on the ice that made a big difference. He was never afraid to stand up for a teammate, and when relegated to the ninth floor at times during Boston’s 2011 Stanley Cup run, he used the spare time to support and fire up the locker room. He was also the kind of competitor where he could take a skate to the face and need 40 stitches, then find the back of the net when he returned to action a few nights later.

Off the ice, he was a pillar in the community, always making time to visit kids in the hospital or making sure his teammates knew they’d eventually be shaving their heads in the annual “Cuts For A Cause” event with 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher and Rich.

While his days of wearing the Spoked-B may be over, Thornton still holds a lot of love for the city of Boston and the fans.

“It was an amazing run,” he told The Globe. “I think that the way people supported me, my foundation, all that stuff . . . for a fourth-line winger to have that many people take to me that kindly, I think, is kind of how the city is built. They appreciate hard-working, blue-collar guys.

LISTEN: Shawn Thornton Talks Time With Bruins, NHL Career On Toucher & Rich

“It was a great spot. I couldn’t have picked a better spot for those seven years, that’s for sure.”

While the 7-6 Bruins should be OK without Thornton in the long run, his former teammates have noticed a few differences without him in the early goings of the season.

“It’s a little quieter, as I’m sure you guys know,” forwards Chris Kelly joked on Monday. “Shawn was a big personality on the ice and off the ice. He did a lot for the team and community. Not just one guy is going to be able to fill his shoes, it takes a group effort to try to fill that void of such a large personality – a guy who won two Stanley Cups and has been around awhile.”

“It’s been different,” said alternate captain Patrice Bergeron. “He was definitely one of the older guys that we’ve been through a lot together. It was different to see him gone and not with us, but hopefully things are going well for him in Florida.”

While the uniform has changed, it looks like Shawn Thornton has remained the same. He still loves Boston, but on Tuesday night he would like to get the best of his former squad.

“I just want to score on Tuukka [Rask],” Thornton told The Globe. “I want the game-winner: 3-2, game-winner.”

He’s the same Shawn Thornton indeed.


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