The Boston Bruins announced yesterday, that as the team moved into next year, they would not be re-signing Shawn Thornton. While this might not be big news in the NHL, it's significant news here in the greater Boston area. I don't believe it was a surprise in the local media and I was glad considering, that the Bruins made the announcement soon enough that Shawn and his Agent could circulate his name to other teams that may be interested in services.
Shawn has been with the Bruins for seven seasons and was one of the key and first signings in the new regime under Coach Julien and GM Chiarelli. Known for his pugilistic abilities and hard hits with high energy, the Bruins sent a message around the league, that they were building a team that was going to compete hard every game. Shawn is a player from the classic "Ole Time Hockey" era of days gone by. He skates, he hits, he chirps and most important; challenges his opponents. He adds a few goals and assists, that mostly serve to embarrass other teams.
Shawn is also known as the last of the true enforcers, one with a "Code". He was not a bruiser who was cheap with his hits, picked on smaller defenders or shied away from from other teams legitimate "Goons". He was a good interview after a game who was accountable for his actions, his team and provided acute insight no matter the score after the game or season. He is very charismatic and Boston fans learned, humble, player that makes friends, is out in public and accessible to one and all. Right from his arrival in Boston, he started making public appearances, usually at hospitals, soup kitchens and stopping for autographs with the most special of sports fans, little kids. He got involved in the local community with fund raisers and his personal time far from the ice. He brought fans to the game who couldn't afford a ticket, armed forces members just back from overseas deployments and always put the logo on the front of his sweater before the name on his back.
Shawn wasn't the first or one of the few or only Bruin who did this. It's been a tradition of Boston Bruins who give back to their community. But, no one can deny, he was a key guy, always out front and his words always made the disadvantaged smile, the weary perkier and uncertain fan a new fan. Shawn's heart is as big as the spoked B on his jersey; just ask anyone who has met him around New England. He is a player so involved in this community, that he has publicly stated that after his days as a Bruin; he will remain in Boston and has chosen Boston as a home for his family and future as he finishes his career and after he retires from the game he loves. So it's clear that Bruins fans and our community has also touched Shawn and his family.
Shawn's final season as a Bruin, was marred by a 15 game suspension, for slew footing and hitting Brooks Orpik when he was down on the ice defenseless, of the Pittsburgh Penguins. It was the first time he was ever suspended for poor play. He was first amongst others to condemn his own play and share his embarrassment for his actions. I've been a fan and watching this game for over 40 years and I've never seen on display that personal unhappiness from an athlete with himself or someone publicly expressing how wrong they were. Personally, I'm not ashamed to say, Orpik got what I thought he deserved. But Shawn's a bigger man than me in that regard.
As for my feelings, I wish Shawn the best and I hope, when his career is over, the Bruins or some local media has a home for him as I think he'd be a great coach or insightful analyst of the game. I have often wondered if Shawn got his name from the movie "The Quiet Man" that starred John Wayne, as the characters name was Sean Thornton, a retired boxer that settles in Ireland the home of his ancestors. If so, we wait to welcome you home Shawn! We Shall Miss Thee!
Until Next time!