When forward Shawn Thornton tripped Brooks Orpik and repeatedly punched him in the head, it sure looked like he knew what he was doing. How could he not have? Did the soul of Matt Cooke momentarily possess him? Did Angela Lansbury wave a queen of diamonds in his face? Is there any scenario in which someone tripping a guy and punching him in the head is not trying to inflict harm?
That's why it was surprising to hear Thornton, reportedly "in near tears" after the game, talk about intent.
Via Boston.com's Bruins Blog:
“I feel awful,” Thornton said. “It wasn’t my intention for that outcome. I know Brooksie. I’ve gotten to know him over the last seven years here. I skate with him in the summer and through the lockout. I’ve texted him a couple times. I feel awful. It’s not what I wanted to see or what anybody wanted to see.”
So Thornton knows Orpik. That's nice. Maybe years from now they'll laugh about it over a round of Golden Tee or something. It still doesn't explain what Thornton intended to do when he slew-footed Orpik and knocked him out, causing Orpik to leave the ice on a stretcher.
This isn't a defense of what happened earlier in the game. James Neal's knee to Brad Marchand's head will get him his punishment—although reportedly only a maximum of five games. And earlier, Orpik took Boston's Loui Eriksson out of the game with a hit that left Eriksson concussed, which might be why Orpik was targeted by Thornton. But what Thornton did in response was on another plane of viciousness—all the more baffling because he doesn't have a history of playing dirty.
Thornton can give his best explanation while his punishment's decided. He will have an in-person meeting with the disciplinary board, meaning he could be suspended for six games or more.