NHL suspends Neal for 5 games, how many will Thornton get?

By Brad Constant, Dec. 10, 2013

People can go round and round about whether they think James Neal or Shawn Thornton was the dirtier player in Boston last Saturday night, Dec. 7. In fact, there is such a debate on Twitter that can be read on BleacherReport.com. But when it comes down to it, both players showed the uglier side of hockey and deserve to be suspended.

All of this got started when Pittsburgh Penguins’ defenseman Bruce Orpik hit Boston Bruins’ forward Loui Eriksson. At first it looked like another hard hit that happened to leave Eriksson woozy and slow to get up. But the replays show that Orpik did catch Eriksson on the chin, although it doesn’t look intentional, in our opinion. Either way, there is concern for Eriksson since he has already missed five games this season with a concussion after being the victim of another dirty hit. Watch the video below and see the hit that sparked everything.

Now enter our main villains, starting with the Thornton of the Bruins. As expected, the Boston tough guy went after Orpik during their first shift on the ice together. Thornton tried to like heck to get Orpik to fight but the Penguins’ defender wouldn’t drop the gloves and Thornton ended up getting a minor penalty.

However, things would escalate again later in the first period when our other villain, and Penguins’ forward, Neal kneed Boston’s Brad Marchand in the head as the Bruin forward was on the ice. As usual a gathering of players occurred, including Orpik and Thornton. But things got nasty when Thornton slew footed Orpik and punched the Pittsburgh defenseman in the head while he was on the ice. Watch the video below of both incidents.

As you can see, Orpik leaves the ice on a stretcher and was taken to a local hospital. Marchand got up and escaped major injury.

The National Hockey League has already comeback and issued Neal a five-game suspension. We say well done Brandon Shanahan and the NHL Department of Player Safety.

But that leaves us wondering what type of suspension Thornton will get. He is currently suspended indefinitely as he awaits an in-person hearing schedule for Friday, Dec. 13. We believe that a suspension of at least 10 games can be expected, and here is why.

Although, Thornton has no previous disciplinary history with the NHL, the League takes whether or not the victim of any infraction was injured. So while people may think that the headaches and neck stiffness that Orpik is experiencing are not that severe, the memory loss that has occurred is. In fact, Orpik cannot remember anything from after Saturday night’s national anthem. Memory loss is a brain injury, and brain injuries are as severe as injuries get.

So as we wait the NHL’s ruling, we leave with a video from the Department of Player Safety telling us why Neal received a five-game suspension. We also ask that you let us know who you think is the dirtier player by answering our poll below (there is a bet riding on this with the winner getting a free lunch so your participation is very important).

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The dirtiest NHL hits of the season, courtesy of Bleacher Report

Here is a good, clean hip check courtesy of the NHL and Phoenix Coyotes. Photo by Norm Hall/NHL via Getty Images.

Here is a good, clean hip check courtesy of the NHL and Phoenix Coyotes. Photo by Norm Hall/NHL via Getty Images.

By Brad Constant, Dec. 6, 2013

On occasion we like to show some love to our fellow hockey writers and share some of their work with you. Our latest example of awesome work comes from bleacherreport.com, one of our favorite sites here at The Hockey Ref. The piece is a list of the dirtiest hits of the 2013-2014 season so far, and it includes videos.

We wanted to share this with you for a few of reasons. First, we agree with the Bleacher Report list. Second, they are awesome sports writers that we love to read. Third, and most importantly, the more people that jump on the bandwagon to eliminate dirty hits from the game of hockey the better.

The National Hockey League and NHL Players’ Association are working to eliminate dirty hits. There are stricter penalties and suspension for players that directly target an opponent’s head.

USA Hockey is doing its part at the youth and amateur levels with rule changes giving harsher penalties for contact to the head, boarding and charging. USA Hockey even raised the level in which checking is allowed – kids used to be able to hit when they reached the Pee Wee level, 10-12, but now checking isn’t allowed until the Bantam level, 12-14.

But rule changes, penalties and suspensions are not enough when youth hockey players watch their heroes in the NHL make dirty hits. So maybe we, the fans, can make a difference if we get behind the NHL and show our displeasure for these dirty hits. It could result in a much better game of hockey for everyone involved.

So check out the bleacherreport.com list here and if you agree, show some support. Maybe you can boo the next time you see a dirty hit, even if it’s a guy on your favorite team.

But before you jump over to the Bleacher Report, watch the video below of the top 10 hits of from the season so far courtesy of the NHL, which only shows off hard and clean checks. And if you want, we also added a video below of Brendan Shanahan, the NHL’s senior vice president of player safety, explaining what makes a good, clean body check.