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Thornton: "I'd Rather Not Be a Distraction"

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins - For the past two weeks, Shawn Thornton has been around the locker room and practicing with his teammates. It's been business as usual, and the Bruin doesn't want that to change.

On December 31, the deadline came and passed for the second appeal of the 15-game suspension issued to Thornton by the NHL Department of Player Safety and upheld by Commissioner Bettman.

"I decided not to take it to the independent arbitrator," Thornton said on the 31st, speaking with reporters for the first time since December 7, as the process had still been ongoing. "It’s been a long process and to be quite honest…I’d rather not be a distraction around here and I’d rather just focus on getting ready for January 11 – it’s twelve days out now."

"So it wasn’t - I’m not going to lie to you - it wasn’t an easy decision, I had been thinking about it for probably the last 36 hours, not much sleep. But I feel, for the team, it’s probably the right thing to do at this point, not going through the whole process again for the third time."

"I’m still not happy with the amount of games I got, but I respect the decision and, like I said, I’d rather just move on mentally and just focus on getting ready for the 11th, instead of focusing on getting ready for another hearing."

Thornton's teammates have been with him through the process, and the winger has tried to not dwell on the situation around the team.

"I think we’ve done a good job here, myself and the organization, of not talking about it with the guys, not bringing it up, not dwelling on it, not – I’ve been trying to stay out of the way as far as that stuff goes – and the guys have been very supportive," said Thornton.

"Probably being here for the first week by myself [while the team was in Canada], maybe helped out a little bit for the team."

"From top to bottom, I think we’ve done a good job of not letting it fester and this is just another step in that direction, I guess."

It still wasn't an easy process for the forward. But the support from teammates, counterparts around the league, and his friendship with Brooks Orpik helped.

"We’ve known each other a long time, I said that right after the fact that we’re friends and obviously the outcome was not what was intended and I felt awful about it and that hasn’t changed," said Thornton. "We’ve talked, we talked that night and we were still friends after the fact that night and that helped me through this a little bit for sure."

"There were a lot of guys, not just this locker room - especially in this locker room, my teammates have always supported me - but there were a lot of guys throughout the league that reached out to me that I didn’t know had my number or they figured out a way – I’ve never met them before – with a lot of kind texts and a lot of phone calls that were very very appreciated."

"Almost all of them were unnecessary; it speaks to the character of the guys that reached out and the guys who spoke out in the media supporting me a little bit, too. They didn’t have to do that and it helped me through the first little bit."

Thornton has always prided himself on being an honest player. He's showed that over the course of his more than 600 games of NHL experience.

"I’m not going to let this define me," he said, when asked by a reporter if he felt he had to rebuild his reputation around the league. "I obviously made a mistake. One mistake. I think doing the job that I’ve done for 600-something games, including playoffs - it’s a tough question to answer because I know I made a mistake but like I said, this won’t define me - I’m going to move on and continue to play and put this in the past."

"There are a bunch of circumstances that led up to that mistake I made and I don’t think you could duplicate that in any other situation. So, no, it won’t affect the way I do my job," he added, when asked if this would alter the way he approaches his game.

"My job is still to protect my teammates, my job is still to play productive minutes when I’m out there, play hard, play the game within the lines, and that’s what I’ll try and continue to do, even though I stepped outside of it once."

Through it all, the Boston faithful was there for Thornton, and will be there when he hits the ice again at TD Garden - though fans will have to wait until after he returns to the lineup on January 11 in San Jose.

"I appreciate it. I know I was told on the jumbotron in between periods they showed me [during the Christmas shopping event] and the crowd gave me an applause. That stuff means a lot," he said. "Like I said, I don’t want [the situation] to define me. I’m very, very appreciate of the support I’ve gotten from everybody."

Though the choice to move on and put sole focus on his return was Thornton's, his head coach, Claude Julien, supported the decision as well.

"When it’s all said and done, it’s just a matter of going on and for me, I think it might not be a bad thing for him to just focus on his return versus the process of going through it," Julien told reporters.

And when he does get back into game action, his presence will be felt immediately, both with the reunion of the Bruins' Merlot Line, and with his vocal leadership.

"His presence is always good because we know what he brings to our team and we also know how the players feel with him in the lineup," said Julien. "At the same time, I think we’ve handled it well. Our guys have done a good job, some guys have stepped up and we continue to be team tough."

"It’s been an experience, I’ll say that," said Thornton. "You’d rather not be a part of it, but I learned a lot along the way too. So, like I said, I’m going to put it behind me now and focus on getting ready for San Jose."

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