Shawn Thornton: ‘People could probably criticize that I’m a little too honorable’

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Boston Bruins enforcer Shawn Thornton could be facing a lengthy suspension after an ugly incident that resulted in Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik being taken off the ice on a stretcher Saturday.

Thornton took down Orpik, then delivered punches to the blue liner while he was on the ice. Members of the Penguins’ training staff were immediately summoned onto the ice, as was the stretcher. Thornton received a match penalty.

Thornton had earlier challenged Orpik to a fight, after Orpik caught Loui Eriksson with an open-ice hit on the first shift the game. Eriksson also left the game and will not return.

Thornton, 36, has been in the NHL since the 2002-03 season, breaking into the league with the Chicago Blackhawks. His role over the years has been simple: Use his size to be a physical presence and fight when the opportunity arises.

He recently spoke out in favor of fighting, while a debate about whether that element should be taken out of the game rages on.

“I don’t know the numbers so I probably shouldn’t [say] but I think a lot more concussions are happening from head hits than fighting, but any time anyone gets punched in the face and gets hurt, people jump all over it,” he recently told Katie Strang of ESPN.

“I think there’s an agenda. I’m not sure where it’s coming from. I won’t say it’s changing the tide, but I think there’s definitely more of an agenda nowadays.

“People could probably criticize that I’m a little too honorable, I suppose, in some instances. I’ve been a firm believer my whole life that what goes around comes around.

“If you’re one of those guys that suckers someone when they’re down or you go after somebody that doesn’t deserve it or isn’t the same category as you, that will come back and bite you at some point, too.”