WILMINGTON -- Shawn Thornton has decided not to go to an independent arbitrator to appeal his 15-game suspension, which was upheld by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman last week. The suspension was handed down by the Department of Player Safety chief Brendan Shanahan for his attack on Brooks Orpik in the Bruins' Dec. 7 game against the Penguins.
Thornton had the option of continuing the process with a second appeal, but would have been the first NHL player to do so under the new collective bargaining agreement.
Part of the reasoning came down to timing -- Thornton has already missed 10 games, and the hearing would be unlikely to be scheduled before Saturday, after three more games had elapsed. Thornton is scheduled to return on Jan. 11 against San Jose.
"I’d rather not be a distraction around here and I’d rather just focus on getting ready for Jan. 11," Thornton said. "I’m not going to lie to you, it wasn’t an easy decision. I’ve been thinking about it for the last 36 hours, not much sleep.
"But I feel for the team it’s probably the right thing to do I guess at this point, not going through the whole process again for a third time."
Thornton said that his teammates had provided a support system for him, and other players from other teams had reached out, including Raffi Torres, Adam Burish, Jay Rosehill, and Paul Bissonnette.
"I’m still not happy with the amount of games I got," Thornton said. "I know I’m not a victim, but I’m not happy with the amount of games I got. But I respect the decision. Like I said, I’d rather just move on mentally and just focus on getting ready for the 11th instead of focusing on getting ready for another hearing."
Thornton, who has not spoken to the media since immediately after the game against Pittsburgh, was asked about the hit that the incident and suspension might have on his reputation after a career in which he had never faced a fine or suspension.
"I’m not going to let this define me," he said. "I think I obviously made a mistake. One mistake, I think, doing the job that I’ve done for 600-something games, including playoffs. It’s a tough question to answer because I know I made a mistake, but like I said, this won’t define me. I’m going to move on and continue to play and put this in the past."