Thornton/By S. Bradley

BOLTON, Mass. — Both because he’s a well-spoken, respected member of the Bruins, and because he happens to be the team’s yearly leader in fighting majors, Bruins forward Shawn Thornton was asked today about the tragedies of this summer in hockey.

Rick Rypien, Wade Belak and Derek Boogaard have all passed away during the offseason under varying circumstances, yet many have lumped them together because they all to different degrees played a role similar to Thornton’s on their respective teams.

Here’s what Thornton eloquently said about that:

“It kind of [expletive] pisses me off that people take this opportunity to try and exploit a certain part of the game. I think those are very, very sad instances, but I don’t think taking it as an opportunity to exploit part of the game is the way to go. Remember the people, the men they were, not what they did for a living.”

At the risk of pandering to a player that no one in the media would ever say an ill word about because of his affable persona off the ice that complements his work ethic on the sheet, Thornton really hit the nail on the proverbial head. There’s certainly room for debate about the role of fighting in hockey and there should be discussion about head injuries, depression and all sorts of things that might adversely affect current and former NHL players.

But the knee-jerk reaction to use the three deaths as a reason to ban fighting is ridiculous. And grouping them together is outrageous. These were three men who played in the NHL to make a living. They fought. In some instances, they fought a lot. But they all had different lives away from the rink. They went through different experiences and came from different walks of life and had different genetic makeups.

It [expletive] pisses me off too. I hope people start to reflect on those three players as people and remember them for what they were instead of using them as fodder to advance their political notions and ambitions.