|Forward Shawn Thornton, a member of Anaheim's Stanley Cup championship team, hopes he can help bring similar results to his new club, the Boston Bruins.
Shawn Thornton, who will be counted on to bring toughness and attitude back to the Bruins lineup – and drop the gloves if need be – was named after Sean Thornton, Wayne’s character in the 1952 Oscar-winning film. According to Thornton, The Quiet Man was the favorite film of his mother, a native of Belfast, Northern Ireland.
For those who have never seen this classic piece of the American cinema, The Quiet Man revolved around Sean Thornton (Wayne), an American boxer who accidentally kills an opponent and retires to Ireland to flee the controversy surrounding the accident, while reclaiming his farm in the Irish countryside. Thornton immediately falls in love and wants to marry a local maiden, Mary Kate Danaher.
But when Mary Kate’s brother, “Red” Will Danaher refuses to hand over her dowry, Mary Kate expects her husband, the retired boxer, to fight her brother for what is rightfully her property. Sean Thornton, still scarred from the tragic end to his boxing career, does his best to resist violence and avoid his past, but eventually gives in and fights for his wife.
The Bruins’ Thornton recently watched The Quiet Man for the first time. He enjoyed it and is honored to be named after such a classic film character, but says he can’t envision himself or his team having quite as much reluctance -- or patience -- if teams try to push them around and dictate the tempo of a game. Thornton and the Bruins do plan on having the right balance and knowing when to pick their spots.
“I’m not, and I don’t think anyone here is planning on letting any team come into a game thinking they can get away with anything,” Thornton said. “It’s not like we have some motto that we have to fight every game, but we’re not going to be pushed around or roll over for anyone. We want teams to know that we’re there from the get-go and if they’re going to beat us, they will have to earn it.”
As Thornton pointed out, he will no doubt engage in some fisticuffs, but “toughness,” which has been Boston GM Peter Chiarelli’s mantra heading into this season, doesn’t always come in the form of a fight.
“If we feel a fight is necessary, I’m sure we’ll have no problem dropping the gloves and going at it, but toughness doesn’t just mean fighting,” Thornton said. “We need to finish our checks, and take a hit to keep the play going if need be. We need to play hard and wear down our opponent. The fighting will always be there and will happen, but we don’t want to be in the box the whole game.”
Wearing down an opponent is exactly what Thornton’s former team, the Anaheim Ducks, did en route to the Stanley Cup last spring. The Ducks were able to insert grit into their recipe for success. While Thornton believes his new teammates are capable of the same style of play, he admits that the team as a whole isn’t there yet.
“We’re getting there, but it takes time,” he said. “You have to understand that the team I was with last year had a core that played that style and formulated their game plan the season before. It got them to the conference finals that season, and they just built off it and carried it over to last season. George Parros and I were able to luckily fit right in and be part of it.”
Thornton has noticed his teammates’ efforts to incorporate this philosophy into their game, and is confident that the coaching staff has the Bruins on the right track.
“We’re definitely building towards it together and I see guys doing the little things that are part of it,” he said. “We’re forechecking better and we’re not backing down. The coaches are really preaching this to us every day.”
Just as Sean Thornton did in The Quiet Man, this Shawn Thornton and his teammates will do their best to combine toughness and skill and, when the time is right, fight for what they believe in.
“I can already tell we have the makings of a tight group here, Thornton said. “There’s going to be low periods and there will be high times too, but I think we have the right bunch here to stick it out when times get tough.”
Rookie invasion; injuries mounting already -- There are some surprising names on some Northeast team rosters as the regular season gets under way. Montreal goaltender Carey Price is probably the most notable surprise, considering all the hoopla surrounding him after he earned the MVP at the World Junior Championships.
There was some doubt as to whether Price would be in the NHL, where he is expected to see limited playing time behind starter Cristobal Huet, at least for now. But General Manager Bob Gainey claims he and the coaching staff will monitor his playing time and won’t let Price’s development be hindered.
“Carey will start the season here, but we don't want either of our young goaltenders to be inactive for an extended period,” Gainey told the Montreal Gazette. “If he goes two or three weeks without playing, we'll send him down.”
Bruins fans will get an earlier than expected look at their future as rookie wing Milan Lucic impressed the Boston staff enough to make the opening-night lineup. Lucic, who was the MVP of the Memorial Cup last season and helped the Vancouver Giants win the championship, has played with the toughness and edge the Bruins have been seeking.
“We've been preaching that we want to be hard to play against, and this is the type of player we want,” Chiarelli said. “They're hard to find, but we have one right here.”
Rookie center David Krejci also made the team after a solid camp and a sensational season in Providence, where he scored 74 points in 69 games.
In Ottawa, rookie forward Nick Foligno, son of former NHLer Mike Foligno, will be on the roster when the Senators open at Toronto Wednesday. Foligno is filling in for the injured Dean McAmmond, who is out with a concussion. He is expected to return to Binghamton when McAmmond comes back.
Goalie Ray Emery is also still recovering from wrist surgery and, as a result, rookie Brian Elliot remained up with the big club. As of Tuesday, head coach John Paddock was undecided on dressing either Emery or Elliot as Martin Gerber’s backup.
In Buffalo, a knee injury to forward Ales Kotalik has enabled another rookie to earn his stripes. Rookie Clarke MacArthur will fill in for Kotalik who is expected to miss at least the Sabres’ first two games.
The Maple Leafs will give highly touted rookie defenseman Anton Stralman a chance to help fill in for the injured Carlo Colaiacovo. Toronto is also missing forward Kyle Wellwood, who is out indefinitely following sports hernia surgery.
Neale goes back over the bridge -- Longtime Hockey Night In Canada and Leafs TV announcer Harry Neale will be working on the opposite side of the Peace Bridge for the next three seasons. Neale left his post as the Leafs’ TV color man to take the same post for Sabres TV and radio broadcasts, signing a three-year deal with the Sabres Wednesday. Neale will team with play-by-play man Rick Jeanneret.
Just as his predecessor, Jim Lorenz, left for travel reasons. Neale, an East Amherst, N.Y., native, based his decision on the chance for less travel.
“I’ve done it for 21 years, I think for Hockey Night in Canada and for the Toronto Maple Leafs’ broadcasts,” Neale said. “I used to think all the time when I came to Buffalo to do a game for the Leafs; ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if I could do 40 of these and go home after the game, instead of driving from Toronto back here?’ The travel was an issue I’ve thought about.”
Neale will be replaced at Leafs TV by Greg Millen, who has worked there as an analyst and reporter for the last three seasons. Millen also served on the Ottawa Senators’ broadcast team for 14 years beginning in 1992, and has been an analyst with Hockey Night in Canada since the 1994-95 season.
The week ahead -- The Bruins start the season with a five-game Western road trip. They open at Dallas Friday night and play the Coyotes in Phoenix Saturday.
The Sabres start the season with a home-and-home set against the Islanders. They host New York Friday night and travel to the Nassau Coliseum for a Saturday-night rematch.
The Canadiens are in Raleigh to face the Carolina Hurricanes Wednesday, then renew their “Original Six” rivalry with Toronto at the Air Canada Center Saturday.
The Senators will also get re-acquainted with the Leafs as the teams kick off the season with a home-and-home edition of the Battle of Ontario. The teams meet in Toronto Wednesday and back at Scotiabank Place Thursday. Ottawa then welcomes the Rangers on Saturday and the Devils Monday.
After the home-and-home with the Senators and their meeting with Montreal, the Maple Leafs welcome in the Hurricanes Oct. 9.