Shawn Thornton: The Last Instigator

(Bruce Bennett / Getty Images)

Come early April, the Florida Panthers’ Shawn Thornton famously dropped his skates in a trash bin after his final game. The two-time Stanley Cup champion retired immediately after his final April 9, 2017 game on the road versus the Washington Capitals. They beat the Caps 2-0.

Thornton spent the brunt of his career in his beloved Boston with the Bruins. Known as the “Instigator,” Thornton spent 1103 of his minutes in the penalty box.

He was best known for his ability to start and win fights with rival players. If you look on HockeyFights.com, 242 of their videos belong to the Instigator. Of course, a fair sized portion of those fights were in the AHL, but that still adds up to 1210 minutes, and that’s just from the videos that the owners of the site deemed worthy of recognition.

Starting out with the Chicago Blackhawks, he quickly became a major “hit.” He had two points in 13 games, one goal and one assist, in his rookie 2002-03 season, but that combined with 31 penalty minutes helped start the blue collar career of the great Thornton.

He spent one year in the 2006-07 season with the Anaheim Ducks when accompanied by stars Ryan Getzlaf, Scott Niedermeier, and Corey Perry he won his first Stanley Cup. Spending 88 of the minutes of the 48 games he played, it was clear to the entire National Hockey League that you didn’t mess around with him or one of his teammates without suffering the consequences of a blow to the head. The Bruins saw this in him and decided he was the right guy to defend their stars, Marc Savard, Phil Kessel, and Zdeno Chara.

Thus started the long Boston career of the beloved Shawn Thornton: they’d only miss the playoffs once in his seven year tenure and his fellow fourth linemates of Daniel Paille and Gregory Campbell helped him build the best fourth line in all of hockey. When Boston won the Finals in the 2010-11 season, a major factor was how there was an unrelenting stream of skill and hard work from the first line to the fourth, mainly perpetuated by Thornton’s ethic of never quitting. The B’s relied greatly on Thornton’s veteran presence to teach the younger players and to show them the type of playing that led to a Cup win.

Thornton, now a front office executive for the Panthers, decided that he would only exercise to “not get fat.” He’s officially done with skating, playing hockey, and most importantly, fighting. His second Stanley Cup winning year was his best year as he got himself 20 points (10 goals and 10 assists), and it’s safe to say that Thornton had a great career.

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2 thoughts on “Shawn Thornton: The Last Instigator

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