The Sharks lockerroom was mostly one of dismay Friday as the club learned they would be without team captain Joe Thornton
for two games due an NHL suspension. On the play in question Thursday night in St. Louis, Thornton came out of the box and was run into by St. Louis’ David Perron, who appeared to be looking backwards. Due to Thornton’s sheer size, even though Thornton appeared to be in position first, Perron went down and a Blues trainer came out to attend to him. Yet Perron was able to skate on the ensuing power play.
“I think they (the NHL) are taking a stand and it is one of those plays,” Dan Boyle
said. “That’s a very gray area. Knowing the player Jumbo is, he is not out to hurt anybody. He is much taller than the guy. I saw it from the bench and it didn’t look vicious. It was bad timing on the whole situation.”
Upon receiving the news Thornton was more than a little surprised considering he was basically standing still. He was not the only one in the hockey world with the viewpoint.
“I was completely shocked by it,” Thornton said. “The funny thing is I got text messages from probably a couple of dozen people saying they thought it probably shouldn’t even have been a penalty. Guys from numerous teams, people from Russia, Germany, Switzerland. They saw it on NHL on the Fly and they couldn’t believe it was even a penalty. Journalists even texted me, ‘Why are you having a disciplinary hearing?’ People just don’t understand. It is really bizarre right now.”
It wasn’t just Thornton who was caught off guard by the scenario as his teammates are still wondering how the NHL will deal with certain situations moving forward. There is much confusion about how things are being perceived now on the ice.
“I can’t confirm players’ opinions from around the league,” Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan said. “I haven’t taken a straw poll inside our lockerroom, but I’ve had players knock on my door and sit down and ask me why. I’ll leave it at that.”
Thornton simply seems to be a player caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“I didn’t come from a dangerous position. I just don’t know how I’m suspended to be honest with you,” Thornton said. “I’m in front of him and he runs into me. We had the analogy of you’re going into an intersection and I’m through the intersection and I get t-boned. Whose fault is it? It’s the person coming. It’s not me. I already have the space. That’s my space. We’re baffled by what went wrong.”
The NHL’s discipline boss is Colin Campbell, but he was not part of the NHL call for Thornton.
“I really don’t know how it could be perceived as a dangerous play on my part,” Thornton said. “That is what I am confused about. Even Colin Campbell wasn’t on the conference call which was really strange. You kind of say your story and then they phone Doug Wilson to tell you if you got anything.”
A difficult part of the play was that Perron needed the trainer’s attention, but he was back on the ice in about a minute of game time.
“There is nothing we can do about it, we just have to move forward,” Douglas Murray
said. “The situation looks worse with the guy laying down. That is the worst part of it and he is out there playing the next shift. It’s sad the game is like that. That’s the way it is. He made it look worse and I guess he succeeded. I know if you are laying down like that after a hit, you are not popping up and feeling o.k. You saw his interview after the game. He said he was fine. He remembered everything that happened and he never lost consciousness or anything. What are you laying down there for? I don’t get it.”
“I thought he was dead, this guy just ran into me at 100 miles an hour and I’m stationary,” Thornton stated. “It’s like soccer when a guy goes down and you think he’s shot and all of a sudden (Perron is) back out on the power play 57 seconds later. I’m truly afraid this is how this is all going. If you stay on the ice longer it seems to get a much heftier penalty.”
PLAYING FOR JOE
The Sharks players, for as unhappy as they are about the scenario, have no choice but to try and win two games for their leader. Thornton is one of the toughest players in the league, playing through countless injuries over his NHL career, so his teammates know how difficult it will be on him to miss the two contests.
“Whoever it is out wants to be out there with the guys and he is a prime example of that day in and day out,” Joe Pavelski
said. “We want to pick him up.”
“He’s a huge part of this team, one of the greatest players in the world,” Couture said. “We’re facing a little adversity right now and we need to get some win.”
Tomorrow the Sharks will have to prepare for Tampa Bay without their captain, but the coaching staff will ready them for the challenge.
“The league has made a decision and we have to live with it,” McLellan said. “We obviously see it a little bit differently. It is a decision that has been made. Our job here is to wins two games without Jumbo. You lose one of your top players, but we’ve played without Jumbo in the past and we’ve actually played pretty well. I just saw Zach Parise fly home for three months and he means a lot to that New Jersey team and they are going to play three months without him. It’s our responsibility to Jumbo while he’s out to perform and play very well.”
“I talked about it after the last game, whenever a guy goes down that plays a lot of minutes, it’s up to other guys to step up and take advantage of it,” Boyle said. “I don’t particularly agree with the decision, but were going to live with it I guess.”
McLellan likes the player sentiment about playing for their annual points leader, but he said actions will speak louder than words.
“It’s a noble thing, it’s a great thing, it’s an easy thing to say,” McLellan noted. “The tough thing is to go out and do it now and that is what we are looking for. I expect us to do that. Now we’ve talked about it, let’s go do it.”
San Jose will host Tampa Bay Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. and the game will be on CSN California, 98.5 KFOX and www.sjsharks.com. Tickets can be found at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office and at www.ticketmaster.com.