If there was a mathematical formula to determine dedication to the sport of hockey by comparing one’s effort to one’s monetary compensation, Shawn Thornton would probably boast the biggest gap.
But his underpaid status and love of the game aren’t the only reasons Thornton is a worthy nominee for the Masterton Trophy this year.
The Masterton is named after the late Bill Masterton, who passed away in 1968 after suffering a major head injury on the ice in a game for the Minnesota North Stars. It rewards perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey. The 30 chapters of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association nominate one player from the team they cover each year and then the entire body votes on a league-wide winner.
Thornton is this year’s nominee from the Boston chapter.
Last summer, Thornton easily could’ve shopped his wares around the league as an unrestricted free agent. But since landing in Boston via free agency in 2007, he has emerged as a fan favorite and community activist in his adopted hometown, in addition to his role as a multi-faceted threat on the ice. So he re-signed for below market value for $812,500 per season for two years so he could not only continue to pull a black-and-gold sweater over his head but also continue to immerse himself in the community.
Over the summer, Thornton started the Putts and Punches golf tournament to benefit Parkinson’s research and this week he’ll be hosting the Cuts for a Cause charity event for the second straight year since Aaron Ward left Boston.
If his gregarious personality and generosity with time and money wasn’t enough, Thornton this season has set career highs with nine goals and 18 points. He’s still the team leader in fighting majors (14) and is known league-wide for his clean, honest approach to a dirty job. He he had appeared in every game this season until a 40-stitch gash over his eye forced him from the lineup last week.
Thornton is the first person to joke about how his salary compares to most of his teammates and their seven-figure checks, but he also knows how lucky he is to be taking home any salary — let alone an NHL one — for playing hockey. Raised by a working-class family, Thornton had to work for everything he got even before he entered into the pro game. The work ethic he built up doing his summer jobs kept him going when he was being passed over during his time in the Toronto and Chicago organizations.
Nowadays, Thornton’s a fixture in the Bruins’ lineup and at their community events. Although he might be underpaid, he’s never underappreciated by those that work for, root for and cover the Bruins. Hopefully, this nomination will serve as a little more validation of Thornton’s career.