Dec 7, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik (44) is tended to by medical personnel after being injured during the first period against the Boston Bruins at TD Banknorth Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Katrina’s Daily Rant: Shawn Thornton and Fighting in Hockey


Once again fighting seems to be at the forefront of the conversation after Shawn Thornton knocked out Brooks Orpik with a sucker punch. Now before I go any further I am not saying that what Thornton did was right, he was in the wrong but the Pittsburgh Penguins are not entirely blameless in this situation. In what I’ve read about the situation people are saying that Thornton snapped because he got a penalty for roughing when Orpik refused to fight him. I don’t think that is the case. I think it has more to do with the knee James Neal took to Brad Marchand‘s head in one of the dirtiest plays I had ever seen. Marchand was on the ground after  being tripped by Sidney Crosby (no penalty was called for that trip but that’s a whole other can of worms) when Neal skated over and aimed his knee at Marchand’s head. That would be enough to get anyone’s blood going and since Orpik had had a hard hit on Loui Eriksson, who was fresh off a concussion and is now back on the injured reserve because of said hit, and refused to fight Thornton earlier, Thornton decided someone needed to pay and that would be Orpik.

A lot of the criticism for fighting in hockey comes from the fact that the players should trust the officials to police the game for them instead of them policing themselves. However the officials aren’t always perfect and there are some things that are wrong that the officials can’t call. Let’s look at the Eriksson hit. It may have been a clean hit but Eriksson had just come back from a concussion and was injured on the play. The official can’t penalize a guy if they get hurt on a clean hit but it is common courtesy to not hammer the guy who just got back from a concussion. When you do something like that you have to answer the bell with a guy like Thornton and when you don’t and your team is as dirty as the Penguins something like what Thornton did is going to happen.  In my opinion the Penguins are the dirtiest team in the league (Matt Cooke had to leave to clean up his act) and this was bound to happen to them eventually.

I believe that the Thornton incident is an argument for fighting in hockey. Had Orpik fought Thornton when he was challenged the sucker punch wouldn’t have happened. If they had fought Orpik would have paid his price for injuring Eriksson and when emotions flared on the Neal knee Thornton’s anger would not have been focused on Orpik. If fighting is taken out of hockey I believe that we will see a lot more incidents like this one. People underestimate just how much of a role fighting takes in making the game safer when it is done for the right reasons.

 

What do you think? Is there a team dirtier than the Penguins? What does this incident say about fighting in hockey? Share your thoughts in the comment box below, on facebook, or on twitter.

Tags: Boston Bruins Brooks Orpik Katrina's Daily Rant NHL Fights Pittsburgh Penguins Shawn Thornton

  • Sal Gruttadauria

    Absolutely wrong, fighting causes concussion. Stop the violence or sport dies. Our kids are watching.

    • Katrina Capp

      Checks cause concussions too, should we take them out as well? Would you rather your kids see dirty plays like Neal on Marchand and Thornton on Orpik or guys fighting to stand up for their team mates?

      • Sal Gruttadauria

        fights are direct blows to head, checks are not.

        • Katrina Capp

          The same if not more concussions are caused by checking then by fighting.

          • Thomas Eric

            Sal obviously you never played the game of hockey fighting is part of the game it’s as simply as that you take fighting out and it’s gonna be a free for all people getting two handed and cheap shouted all day. Stop shinning and complaining and trying to pussify the sport. It’s just like football people complain about hard hits so they reduce and make fines for hitting high which is actually safer and now every one is hitting low and guys are blowing out their knees all be cause of “concussions” athletes know the risk they know what they sign up for they love the game so if your an outsider don’t comment on a game you know nothing about

          • Katrina Capp

            I agree that fighting is part of the game but there is no need for you to insult the guys knowledge of hockey.

          • Sal Gruttadauria

            Great then you cut down the concussions in half. Concussion a fact of life in all sports. That doesn’t mean you don’t try to mitigate factors.

          • Eric Lencher

            They are not a fact of life in all sports,. I don’t know a single Golfer who ever sustained a concussion unless he got drunk in the clubhouse and did a swan dive into shallow end of the Country Club pool!

          • Sal Gruttadauria

            Contact sports, obviously not chess either

          • Katrina Capp

            I don’t know if you can call chess a sport.

          • Eric Lencher

            No, not all contact sports either. Wrestling, lacrosse, basketball and soccer don’t have these issues. It’s typically hockey and football because of the size and speed of the players. The equipment they use also contributes.

          • Sal Gruttadauria

            Wrong, soccer does have the same issue, with head balls. Do your research.

        • Thomas Eric

          Your ignorant

        • Eric Lencher

          So I guess you want MMA and boxing outlawed as well. I don’t think that anyone is going to agree with you except for the people who have never benefitted themselves from playing sports.

    • Eric Lencher

      Sign your kids up for golf and tennis. Those are non-contact sports. I’ll be driving my kids to hockey practice, and letting them choose what other sports they want to play.

      • Sal Gruttadauria

        Both my sons play hockey.

        • Katrina Capp

          If you are so appalled by the violence why do you let them play hockey and watch hockey? It is up to the parent to decide what the kid watches not the guys on the ice.

          • Chris

            Because there is no fighting in kids hockey and unless you are playing AAA there is no hitting either.

        • Eric Lencher

          Then you, sir, are a hypocrite.

  • shinerking

    Neil is the biggest pussy since Thomas Sandstrom. He usually starts shit and then runs. boooooooooooo

    • Katrina Capp

      Neal should have had an in-person hearing. He didn’t even apologize while Thornton apologized a lot. The guys that fight are some of the most kind hearted in the league.

  • raed dabbous

    I think you are absolutely out of your mind to say that the penguins are the dirtiest team in hockey. And it’s not fair that you try to Justify Brooks Orpicks agression and blame it on brooks (who is NOT a dirty player by any mean, nor is he a Matt Cook type pest. Heis a V. good 2 way defender). Brooks had a hit which is legal, and if it wasnt, it just was not dirty.. This article is and embarrassment. This kind of behavior is not acceptable..PERIOD.

    To Justify it by pinning it on the Penguins being dirty (What?), or Neal playing Dirty (I agree on that play) is just unacceptable and unjustifiable.

    • Katrina Capp

      I never said what Thornton did was right. I explicitly stated before I started the article that it was wrong. I just said it could have been avoided if Orpik had paid the piper for using unnecessary force on a player who just came off a concussion, which may not be a penalty but it’s certainly not clean, Thornton wouldn’t have done what he did. I wasn’t defending Thornton, I was showing that the Pens aren’t merely the victims in all this. Thornton has since genuinely apologized for what he did and Neal has not. Also if you are going to call me an embarrassment at least read over the comment first and make sure there are no mistakes.

  • http://toomanymenonthesite.com/ Patrick Helper

    This is an NHL front office problem. They have allowed their players to turn this pure game into a mess. This game was once about pride, and heritage; it has become about money. There in lies the problem. As long as the goons get paid for fights and cheap hits it will never stop. If the league wants to fix their problem two things need to happen. 1. Smaller pads if players know that they will be hurt just as badly as their target after delivering a cheap hit they will think twice before doing it. 2. The NHL needs to get rid of the instigator rule. When players were allowed to protect their teammates hits, and punches like what we have been seeing didn’t happen as ofter. The respect has gone from the game, and until the league and players own up nothing will change, and that is just sad.

  • Swifty the Christmas Elf

    Take off your orange glasses…choosing to fight or not has NOTHING to do with what happened. Implying it does is not only ignorant but irresponsible. This is not a referendum on fighting but irresponsible acts of violence.

    • Swifty the Christmas Elf

      Furthermore saying “if only Orpik had engaged in a fight” this would had ended…is as logical as saying that if only Marchand had not overly played a trip by Crosby, Neals knee would have never hit him. Both arguments are ludicrous and I am amazed at your ability to justify in one case but not another…INEXCUSABLE!

      • Katrina Capp

        Your Angel Crosby did trip Marchand but because it was Crosby it wasn’t called. Thornton has genuinely apologized for what he did because he feels bad for what he did. Neal has not apologized because he is not sorry. I would rather have Thornton on my team than Neal any day.

        • Swifty the Christmas Elf

          Again take off your orange glasses. I am not a Penguins fan, and your further insults to a Player that is only peripherally related to this only weakens your argument more. Apologies after the fact or in the face punishment are irrelevant. If you cant control your actions you have no business as a professional. Your justification remains weak and biased, while your insults continue. BOTH acts are dangerous and don’t belong in the game, if you cant acknowledge that you are as foolish as you are biased.

          • Katrina Capp

            Firstly you brought up Crosby, not me. 2nd of all I never said that players should throw players to the ground and start punching them that’s not a fight. A fight is two willing combatants fighting each other because one did something morally wrong like use unnecessary force on a hit to a guy who just returned from a concussion giving him another concussion.

          • Jeremy B

            Swifty, I want to fight you to shut you up. you are a moron. I have no journalistic integrity to worry about so i repeat moron.

          • Swifty the Christmas Elf

            Go away child the adults are talking…

          • Jeremy B

            okay Swifty the Christmas Elf.

          • Swifty the Christmas Elf

            its as descriptive as Jeremy B….

          • Katrina Capp

            Jeremy has a point, just saying.

          • Swifty the Christmas Elf

            I did not accuse you of bringing him up..but consistently using insulting language. Also I did not see a definition of unnecessary force that is un-penalized, outlined anywhere in the NHL rule book. As for your comment about a just returning from a concussion, either he is ready to play or he isn’t. I have yet to see the NHL keep a register or send some sort of notification regarding on ice treatment of post-concussed players. So lets stick to relevant arguments here…

          • Katrina Capp

            I never said it was a written rule. It is part of the unwritten code between hockey players and if you say that doesn’t exist you need a reality check. And you attacking my character and journalistic integrity is not using insulting language?

          • Swifty the Christmas Elf

            I questioned it..not insulted it…my exact verbiage was “That speaks volumes not only about your character but journalistic integrity” . You went directly to insulting my,admittedly stupid screen name. Only weak arguments need to result to that. If you chose to discount my opinion because of that..so be it…thats where the integrity and character come in…FYI.

          • Katrina Capp

            I never said that I discounted your opinion because of it I simply mentioned it because others might, and you said it yourself this has been an intelligent discourse despite the screen name. I haven’t treated you any differently than anyone else.

          • Swifty the Christmas Elf

            Katrina, In all honesty, despite our difference in opinion here, this has been a most intelligent discourse (except for Jeremy B), I do thank you for that…

      • Swifty the Christmas Elf

        No response here Katrina…maybe more insults about my screen name perhaps…

    • Katrina Capp

      How do you know it has nothing to do with what happened. There is no way of knowing what would have happened if Orpik had fought Thornton earlier. I just made an educated prediction based on facts I have learned from talking to many of the fighters in the league. How is it not logical to assume that if Thornton had gotten his aggression out on Orpik earlier in the game he wouldn’t have thrown him to the ice and sucker punched him? Also if you want people to take you seriously maybe you should change your name to something other than Swifty the Christmas Elf.

      • Swifty the Christmas Elf

        Did you talk to either Thornton or Orpik after the incident..if not you are inferring/speculating pure and simple. That in and of itself, is OK. But lets not fool ourselves that’s not an educated perspective. What I find laughable, is when I call out your bias as a Flyers fan you ignore my counterpoint and insult my screen name. That speaks volumes not only about your character but journalistic integrity. The actual counter-point BTW is “This is not a referendum on fighting but irresponsible acts of violence.” to connect the two undercuts your argument. Which an actual journalist would realize…

        • Katrina Capp

          1st If my speculating is OK then why do you need to call me out as a Flyers fan. I did not mention the Flyers once in the article therefore my team alliances aren’t a factor here. If I didn’t have your so-called orange colored glasses I would still have thought what Orpik, Neal, and Thornton did was wrong. Like it or not fighting is connected to these irresponsible acts of violence and if you don’t think so then who is really the ignorant one. 2nd if you don’t want people to talk about your screen name don’t make it Swifty the Christmas Elf. I wasn’t insulting you, just giving you a tip. If you want to have mature grown-up conversations have a mature grown up screen name.

          • Swifty the Christmas Elf

            I am surprised I have to say this to someone that has a column(if thats what this can be called), however understanding the point of view of your readers and the author is important in critical writing and reading. You identify yourself in your (probably self authored) bio, Referenced in the article or not you set the stage not me. Your argument is changing, yet again, You reference backing away from a fight as possible justification for what happened this is what I find offensive. In that example the linkage you infer is reversed, not fighting led to an escalation of violence not a reduction in it. Let me be clear I am for fighting, however if not fighting can justify (by your argument) what Thornton did, I would agree with removing it. There is NO justification, period.

          • Katrina Capp

            I am not justifying what Thornton did! I never said that. What Thornton did was wrong, I have said that multiple times. I was using what Thornton did as an example for those who are against fighting as to the kind of thing that would happen if fighting was taken out of the game. No justification, what Thornton did was wrong and the targeting of Orpik was due to unresolved feelings from earlier in the period. I don’t appreciate the condescension either. I would love to read Swifty’s blog on the internet since you claim to know so much more than me.

          • Swifty the Christmas Elf

            My column reference was because its called a RANT, you’d have to agree that has certain implications. Regarding your “as to the kind of thing that would happen if fighting was taken out of the game” the problem is no one challenged has to fight regardless of “code”. That is the problem with your argument, if they did fight you cannot say with any degree of certainty that Neal would not have kneed Marchand or Thorton would have mugged Orpik. Slight correction here…I never said I know more than you, just disagree with your logic, and who says I don’t have a blog…:-) it just might not be called swifty…

          • Katrina Capp

            You implied you know more than me by explaining to me that I need to understand the point of view of my readers. You said earlier that I was allowed to speculate and so I speculated. The Rant in the title does imply something, it implies that these are my opinions which I am entitled to. I never said that the fight would have prevented the knee on Marchand, I just said that the knee wouldn’t have lead to the mugging on Orpik had the fight occurred.

  • kiahuna

    To start and I quote ” Let’s look at the Eriksson hit. It may have been a clean hit but Eriksson had just come back from a concussion and was injured on the play. The official can’t penalize a guy if they get hurt on a clean hit but it is common courtesy to not hammer the guy who just got back from a concussion.”
    I don’t know what your history is or what knowledge you have but listening to commentators or even players who DO NOT KNOW the Rules is ludicrous. I suggest you look at the Rule Book, section 15 I believe, and look at the definition of Interference. Since it was rule book interference, it is NOT a clean hit. Courtesy not to hit a player returning from an injury. Are you kidding? That’s why we now have upper and lower body injury courtesy of Scotty Bowman. In THE Day, if it was known by the opposing team that a player had a sore wrist, slashing that wrist was the order of the day. If a player obviously hurt his leg, bowman would announce a hang nail for the injury.
    Thornton will get his suspension, his first by the way. after Orpik’s head clears, lets have a hearing for him for an illegal check causing injury. And Dupuis? Nothing for breaking an opponent’s leg.
    I suggest you check out some of Scott Stevens videos.
    Do not call Pitts the dirtiest team. I again suggest you look up the Broad Street Bullies. That was the good old days. Talk about the dirtiest.
    My Bruins are not called the Big Bad Bruins for nothing.
    Fighting except staged fighting is part of the game and needs to remain. Here is a ? toask the players.
    Keep learning. I’m on 64 years watching the NHL and still learning

    • Katrina Capp

      I didn’t realize the hit was interference because I was looking at it out of context. Either way the Thornton was angry at Orpik for it which caused the sucker punch, but I think we are saying the same thing here. As for the Pens being the dirtiest team, I meant current team. Also as far as the hitting those that are injured just because guys do it doesn’t make it right and it doesn’t mean that team mates won’t seek retribution for it.

  • James Allen

    Omg! Please, you actually think this was ok! I can’t read your stuff any more you just haven’t got a clue!

    • Katrina Capp

      I never said I thought what Thornton did was right first of all. I have explicitly said what he did was wrong but Orpik is not entirely blameless for the incident. Please stop insulting my intelligence, it’s unnecessary and just makes you look mean.

  • James Allen

    You cannot put any of this incident on orpick, this was all Thornton! To say otherwise is asinine!

    • Katrina Capp

      Thornton didn’t randomly grab him and throw him to the ice. There was a reason behind it.

  • James Allen

    Yes Thornton did randomly throw orpik down and started pounding him! The play your referring to happened earlier. Thornton waited till play stopped came up behind orpik and slew footed him and then dropped down on him and hit him while he lnyrd on the ice! That’s the only way to look at that incident! Thornton is a thug, plain and simple!

    • Katrina Capp

      Thornton tried to fight but Orpik wouldn’t do it. Thornton wouldn’t have done anything else had emotions not boiled over when Neal took his knee to Marchand’s head.

  • James Allen

    Orpik was under no obligation to fight Thornton, if Thornton had an issue with Neal he should have taken it up with Neal! He picked orpik cause of the Ericsson hit! It doesn’t matter any ways cause it was after the whistle and it was a classless ack! Thornton should be tossed for the rest of the season and most of next year as well! It’s no different from the bertuzzi hit on Moore! The only difference is orpik didn’t get a broken neck!

    • Katrina Capp

      I’m not saying what Thornton did was right but if Orpik had fought him earlier it probably wouldn’t have had happened.