Shawn Thornton was a healthy scratch on Sunday in Game 6 of the Bruins series against the Capitals. Shawn doesn’t know if he’ll be in the lineup for tonight’s Game 7, but he’s preparing as if he’ll play. (As told to Dan Duggan)
I don’t know if I’m playing tonight. I will prepare like I’m playing either way. I’d rather be prepared and then be told I’m sitting than not prepare and be told I’m playing. I really have no idea which way it’s going to go tonight. I’ll found out after warm-ups probably. I haven’t got a clue. Nobody said anything to me this morning so I’m assuming I’m playing and if I’m told otherwise, then I’m told otherwise. But like I said, I’d rather be prepared. I talk myself into thinking that I’m definitely playing and then prepare that way. I like these games so I’m very excited to be playing tonight. I’m hoping it works out.
We’re professionals so we get through the uncertainty, but I’d rather know. I’d rather have a definite, but if Claude doesn’t know for sure then I can’t know for sure. So I do my best to prepare to the best of my abilities. When there’s uncertainty it’s always there a little bit in the back of your mind, but you just soldier through.
In an exclusive interview, the bruising six-foot-two-inch, 217-pound left winger tells what it might be like if one of his fellow hockey players came out
By David Zimmerman
Shawn Thornton loves Boston.
Boston loves Shawn Thornton.
That has been the case since the day Thornton arrived in town to play for our Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins.
Thornton, 34, is a bruising six-foot-two-inch, 217-pound, left winger for the Bruins who throws punches as hard as his slap shot. In fact, more than a few unfortunate opponents would argue that the punches are actually much harder. He is known as the team’s ‘enforcer,’ the player assigned to protect his teammates and often fights to do so.
You wouldn’t necessarily think that Thornton, the enforcer from a “blue collar, industrial town about 20 minutes outside of Toronto” would be first in line for a sit-down with an LGBT publication like Boston Spirit. You would be wrong. Thornton met with Boston Spirit recently for an exclusive one-on-one interview.
Boston Spirit: What do you think would happen if one of your teammates announced he was gay?
Shawn Thornton: Honestly, my teammates are like family so there would be support. I would personally [support] him and I’m pretty sure everyone in our locker room would. We’ve got a pretty good bunch of guys. I don’t think there would be any issues.
BS: You played for several teams and have been in a bunch of different locker rooms. Would it be the same on other teams as well?
ST: I would like to think that everyone would handle it fine. I don’t know if that’s the case. I’ve only been in three different [professional] organizations. I would hope that in this day and age that everyone would treat it the same.
BS: Have you ever had a gay teammate?
ST: I don’t know.
BS: If a player did come out, would he get targeted more on the ice?
ST: It depends. There are some things said out there [during games] that probably shouldn’t be said, but the league is very good at clamping down on players that say anything derogatory. I’m not going to pretend that out of 740 guys [the total number of players in the NHL] that you aren’t going to find someone who says something inappropriate but I think, for the most part, it would be fine. I can’t speak for everyone, but for myself it wouldn’t be an issue.
BS: Tell me about this particular Bruins team. You are in a state that has legalized same-sex marriage and is seen as a pretty liberal, accepting place. Do the players on this team reflect the environment here?
ST: We’re family in here. We’re around each other more than our own families so you create a certain bond and everyone supports each other in whatever they are doing. That’s definitely the case in this locker room. I have known all of these guys for a long time. All that we went through last year [the Bruins won the Stanley Cup as league champions] and being around each other until mid-June, I know this room would be unbelievable.
BS: The NHL has done a very good job reaching out to the LGBT community, especially with their recent ‘You Can Play’ public service announcements [created by Massachusetts-native Patrick Burke], and the players seem to have embraced the cause as well. Some other sports have not been so supportive, what is it about NHL players that sets them apart?
ST: The hockey culture is that we’re just a bunch of average guys that hang around each other a lot, and if anyone steps out of line you’ve got 19 other guys in the locker room that will bring him back into line. I think that helps create the atmosphere we have.
BS: And what about you, have you always been supportive of the LGBT community?
ST: My hometown is a very blue collar, industrial place. There isn’t much of a [gay] community there, but 20 minutes down the road was Toronto. So while I didn’t really grow up with a huge gay community there was one close by and it’s never been an issue with me.
BS: Are you concerned at all about what some people might think seeing you speaking about this topic?
ST: Whatever, I think I can defend myself (laughing).
Going into tomorrow’s Game 1, the Washington Capitals have spread some of their best offensive weapons throughout different lines. Today, Shawn Thornton talks about some of their biggest scoring threats and what makes Zdeno Chara such a good defender when going up against one Alexander Ocechkin. (As told to Mark Daniels)
The Washington Capitals are a pretty deep team. I think, we’re obviously pretty deep up front too but they have some scoring threats on every line. So, it’s not easy to just focus on one person over there because they have some pretty dynamic players. That’s for sure.
Alexander Ovechkin’s release is second-to-none. I think every time he has the puck on his stick, inside the blue line, he’s capable of scoring. There are not a lot of guys who get the puck off their stick like he does. Nicklas Backstrom I think makes everybody around him better. I think he’s that good. Alexander Semin, obviously, can shoot, score and skate. Like I said, they are pretty deep. And then they have some great guys up front that compliments those lines.
With injuries to Michal Neuvirth and Tomas Vokoun, it looks like Braden Holtby will be in the net for the Capitals tomorrow. Shawn Thornton talks about going up against a goalie that’s not as well known and talks about the excitement surrounding the playoffs. (As told to Mark Daniels)
There’s a chance that Braden Holtby could be starting in goal tomorrow. I don’t know if there are much advantages or disadvantages when playing against a less common known goaltender – I haven’t put much thought into what’s going on over there as far as the goaltending situation. I don’t know if somebody’s coming back or not.
I’m sure this is Holtby’s chance to make a statement, make a name for himself. So I’m sure he’ll be doing everything he can to make that statement.
When I was in Anaheim, the goaltender there, Jean-Sebastien Giguere, was having some family problems and Ilya Bryzgalov stepped in for us as our goalie. And I think at that time, I don’t know how well known he was, but he was unbelievable for us in the first series against Minnesota, and we wouldn’t have won without him. So, I have seen it before but more with the goalie on my side and not against.
Commenters Perdita and Mike both have asked what the players plan to do when their careers are over. Today Shawn Thornton answers that question. Shawn is involved in various forms of media and is leaning toward using that experience to form a second career. (As told to Dan Duggan)
I’m not sure what I’ll do after my career. I’ll be sticking around here, most likely. I don’t really know what I’ll get into. Who knows where it will take me? I’d like to get in the media, maybe. I’ve been doing a weekly show on Comcast for a couple of years now and trying to improve at it just in case that’s one of my options. I’m good friends with Shane Hnidy, who used to play here. He’s been doing radio and TV for the Winnipeg Jets and he seems to really, really enjoy it. I know we have fairly similar personalities and similar likes and dislikes, so it’s something I’m definitely interested in.
Comcast contacted our media department asking if I would be willing to do the show. I guess somebody over there must have liked my personality, I don’t know. It definitely wasn’t my good looks. We kind of worked on it and figured out what the best way to do it would be and I’ve been doing it for two years. It’s been a great experience.
When I was approached with the idea, I thought at that time it would be good to get some experience. I thought it was a pretty easy decision. I didn’t know at that time where I was going to be in a couple of years, either, so it was definitely something I was thinking about. People forget about you very quickly once you’re done playing, I’ve come to notice.
Shawn Thornton is one of the most popular athletes in Boston among athletes in different sports. Shawn explains how he’s developed friendships with other athletes in the city. (As told to Dan Duggan)
I’ve become friends with a lot of athletes in Boston. I think it’s because I’m around during the summer. I do a lot of charity things and we end up running into each other at those things. I know with Youk (Kevin Youkilis), I’ve met him a bunch of times over at Fenway and away from the rink at different charity things. He asked if I would be one of the spokesmen for his charity and I was happy to do it. I’m around Fenway a lot so I get to see those guys a little bit more than most people, I guess.
I’m pretty good buddies with (UFC fighter) Kenny Florian. We ran into each other at a bunch of charity things and I was actually just a big fan of his. I kind of probably creeped him out by following him, but he’s a really good guy. We’ve been out and had some good times together. There’s a bunch of good guys in the Boston sports world. If you meet them, guys get along and you’re on the same page with where your lives are at.