BOSTON — Ten-minute misconducts for fights that start immediately after a faceoff or ones that seem staged to the officials during the course of the game? Stricter enforcement of the instigator penalty?
Boston Bruins winger Shawn Thornton isn’t buying any of it.
“A 10-minute misconduct is ridiculous as far as I’m concerned,” said Thornton after today’s Bruins morning skate at TD Banknorth Garden. “I don’t understand how they’re going to enforce it or police it. … I think if you do it, then you’ve got to get rid of the instigator because if somebody gets run, then somebody has to be able to jump in and defend that. Or else somebody has to address it later on in the game, and that’s technically what they’re calling a staged fight — but really it’s retribution for something that happened earlier in the game.
“If it gets to be like that, I can see two guys just making a mockery of it and standing there for 15 seconds at center ice and then dropping the gloves. I don’t know where this is going to go. I think the game’s fine the way it is. I think it’s been fine for 125 years or whatever it is. Just leave it alone, personally.”
In their effort to “clean up” the sport and, they say, avoid serious injury, the league’s 30 general managers conjured up the above-mentioned proposals at their annual meetings earlier this week. To become rules, the proposals have to be approved by the Board of Governors and the competition committee.
Thornton doesn’t fall into the category of a “fight-only player” — the type the NHL is trying to push into extinction. He averages 10:08 of ice time per night and has five goals, five assists. That’s part of the reason he’s able to still be against staged-fighting while supporting the status quo.
“It’s different for me because I have the luxury of playing anywhere from nine to 13 minutes a night. So I’m kind of passed the point of fighting for no reason, or just because the other team has a tough guy,” said Thornton. “(Head coach) Claude (Julien) isn’t a big fan of that; neither am I. I think there should be a reason for it. I agree with the fact that just because there are two guys out there that are tough it’s necessary to have a fight unless something’s happened.”
“I’d get rid of the instigator, but that’s going backwards in their minds,” Thornton said when pressed for what he’d change about the rules. “They’re talking about enforcing it even more, which I’m against.”
As he thought about it more, Thornton came up with one other thing he’d change — if the league made sure to thoroughly enforce it.
“I heard about stopping the fight when the helmet comes off, just like a jersey going over the head. I’m not opposed to that,” he said. “It’s just that you better be sure that the linesmen are on their toes when that happens because if a guy’s helmet goes off and I let up and then I get suckered, I’m not going to be happy with that either.
“Out of the all the ones I’ve heard, that’s the one that makes the most sense. But then again, my helmet’s 12 years old and it comes off pretty easy.”
For your viewing pleasure, here’s one of Thornton’s best bouts this season – a battle with Ottawa’s Chris Neil from January.