Boston Bruins forward Shawn Thornton is going to appeal his 15-game suspension.
Anton Thun, Thornton’s agent, has confirmed that his client is going to challenge the decision. The NHLPA also informed the league of the decision to appeal within the 48-hour window.
So what’s next?
The appeal process first goes to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, which means the boss will have the choice to either uphold the suspension or kick it out. If he upholds the suspension, Thornton can appeal to a neutral arbitrator because it’s a longer suspension.
Only one player has gone down this road under the new collective bargaining agreement: Patrick Kaleta. No player has gone to the neutral arbitrator as of yet, with Bettman upholding Kaleta’s suspension with a 17-page decision. The same thing could very well happen with Thornton.
One issue here is that checking the Department of Player Safety’s suspension is a good thing for the league because it at least suggests the appearance of balance.
The other more immediate issue is whether or not Thornton has a case. In the instance of Kaleta, Bettman hammered down on the player because he was a repeat offender with a rap sheet as long as Rob Ford’s. It was easy to form a case against him and wield counterarguments like swords.
In the case of Thornton, things are a little more nebulous and things very well could advance to the neutral arbitration stage. When you even have Ray Shero, the general manager of the team Thornton’s victim plays for, offering statements in defence of the Bruin, it’s possible the case is stronger than it may appear.
Couple Thornton’s reputation with the fact that he was immediately apologetic and even emotional about the matter and suddenly the appeal becomes a lot less cut and dry. In other words, Thornton could actually win this thing and have his suspension reduced.
“We believe there are a variety of reasons to appeal it and part of it is just clarity,” said Thun. “The clarity is not just Shawn but for the other players in the league.”
Whether or not that altruistic rationale is to be believed or not is not really the point. Thornton’s appeal, expected to go ahead as early as Thursday or Friday, should prove insightful as to how well the NHL’s “system” works.