Shawn Thornton's hit left Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik unconscious on Dec. 7. (Jared Wickersham/Getty Image)
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman on Tuesday upheld the 15-game suspension originally assessed Dec. 14 to Boston Bruins forward Shawn Thornton, according to a report from the NHL Department of Player Safety.
The 36-year-old had punched Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik in the first period of the Bruins' 3-2 win at on home Dec. 7. Bettman's decision comes days after the commissioner heard Thornton's appeal at a Dec. 20 hearing in New York. Thornton will also forfeit $84,615.45 because of the suspension.
Orpik, who was unconscious on the ice following the incident, was taken to a Boston-area hospital and released. Thornton later admitted in a report from Boston Globe reporter Fluto Shinzawa that he felt awful about the incident but that it's his job to protect his players:
"Listen, I feel awful. It wasn’t my intention. I know Brooksy, I’ve gotten to know him over the last 7 years here, I skate with him in the summer, through the lockout. I’ve texted him a couple of times. I definitely feel awful. It was not what I wanted to see or what anyone wanted to see."
The Bruins, currently 25-10 and first in the Atlantic Division, are in a race for the top spots in the Eastern Conference with the Pittsburgh Penguins, currently 27-11 and first in the Metropolitan Division.