On July, 1 2014 F Shawn Thornton shipped out of Boston and set his sights on South Florida, signing a two-year, $2.4 million contract. Thornton has been a well-known enforcer within the NHL for over a decade and has not only a wealth of experience that he’s gained through the years, but two Stanley Cup rings to boot. The 6’2″ 217 lb, bruiser spent seven seasons with the Boston Bruins and his leadership and hard work on and off the ice, as well as his intimidation factor were revered in the city of Boston.
Like in the summer of 2011, Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon swam a couple of laps in the Free Agency pool looking for the right pieces to the Florida puzzle during this summer, and made a splash signing six new players, including Thornton. A familiar face for Tallon, Thornton was a part of the Chicago Blackhawks during Tallon’s tenure in the Windy City. Looking for experience and toughness on a young Panthers team, Thornton and Tallon working out a deal seemed like a no-brainer.
“Florida was my first choice.” said Thornton, “I like where the team is going. He (Tallon) was talking about the moves he was going to make in the offseason. I obviously know Dale from Chicago. (We) Love the area. I’ve already been down a couple of times checking it out with the wife, and we’re really excited to be a part of it.”
Thornton, 37 is an elder statesman on a Panthers team whose core players are just reaching, or are barely at legal drinking age yet. The veteran winger knows his role within the team and sees the talent that this team possesses, some of whom he’s taken notice of since playing against them in the past.
“The skill level is obviously second to none. I was actually asking Tuukka (Rask) about (Aleksander) Barkov last year because I didn’t know much about him, but playing against him you definitely notice him. Playing against (Erik) Gudbranson the last couple years, he was extremely hard to play against. I knew every time I went into the corner there was going to be a rough one coming out. These guys are starting to come into their own, their young kids are starting to play the game the right way.”
A humble man, Thornton looks to be an approachable member of the team for the young guys, willing to instill his wisdom whenever need be.
“I never thought I’d play in the NHL, let alone win a Cup. I’m very fortunate where my career has taken me. (Willie) Mitchell and (Dave) Bolland have both won twice. We aren’t going to come into the locker room and say ‘this is how I did it’, ‘this is how I did it’ and ‘this is how I did it’. Kids ask questions, and they’d like to know what it’s about and some things that I may have picked up along the way. Any type of advice and experience I am more than happy to share.”
Off the ice, Thornton created the Shawn Thornton Foundation . Started up in 2013, Thornton’s foundation is dedicated to helping find cures for Parkinson’s disease and cancer. A proponent of a strong community presence, Thornton looks forward to getting involved in South Florida as he has done in the past with his previous teams.
“Everywhere I’ve been, I’ve always tried to embrace the community. I think you get a better feel for people in the area when you’re out and about doing most things. I think we’re very, very fortunate to do what we do for a living. To take an hour out of our day a few times a month to put some smiles on faces is the least we can do.”
The enforcer from Oshawa, Ontario will be continuing his offseason training with a trip on Tuesday to Los Angeles, California where he will work with legendary Boxing Trainer, Freddie Roach. A Six-time Boxing Trainer of the year, Roach has worked with countless boxers including Mike Tyson, Oscar De La Hoya, Bernard Hopkins and Miguel Cotto as well as several Mixed Martial Artists including Anderson Silva, Georges St. Pierre, Tito Ortiz and Jose Aldo.
Although seen as a fighter on the ice, Thornton isn’t training for just fighting, but for the conditioning aspect that Roach instills in his program. Thornton views fights on the ice versus the ring as “a different animal”.
Thornton will bring a much-needed edge to the Panthers this season, and with his willingness to drop the gloves with anyone brave enough to return the favor, he could be a fan favorite in Sunrise just as he was in Boston.