IMG_2027As of today, former Boston Bruins forward Shawn Thornton has officially hung up the skates. The 39-year old forward/pugilist extraordinaire had an unusual but memorable NHL career, putting in 14 seasons. The two-time Stanley Cup champion spent seven seasons with the Black and Gold, and was one of the X factors in the Bruins Cup victory in 2011.

Thornton officially played his last game on April 8.  He finished with two shots on goal and four hits spread out over 15:06 of ice time. After the game, Thornton retired his skates to a trash can in the Florida locker room. The skates ended up on eBay, helping raise $2,500 for Thornton’s foundation.

The Florida Panthers didn’t acquire Thornton for his numbers. They made him a Panther for his character.  Sure, saying someone is “great in the locker room” has become cliche.  But in Thornton’s case, it was spot on.

“The whole idea was to bring in Shawn to help our hockey team, help them learn how to win, how to have that fierce spirit,” said Panthers President and CEO Matt Caldwell according to SI. com . “We’ve seen what Shawn did to our locker room, positively and how great he was with our young players, how much of a warrior and leader he was. We’re maniacal about culture and having people really care about the company and put its purpose and mission above their own. We just felt Shawn could really bring that, especially to the business side.”

Now Thornton will be moving on to a front office job with the Panthers organization. He’ll certainly bring a new perspective to the Panthers management structure. He’ll likely be the first serious ‘hockey voice’ in the room.

He ended up with 705 career NHL games and over 1100 penalty minutes. (Thornton’s last NHL fight was against Andrew Desjardins on March 25. The Panthers trounced the Chicago Blackhawks 7-0.)

Thornton was a stand-up guy for the Bruins. When he was on the ice, he kept the other team honest. When hard play and menacing glares didn’t work, he knocked the stuffing out of them.

As a Bruins fan, you’ve likely got your favorite Shawn Thornton fight. This one is mine.

Thornton was a monster on the ice. He was a completely different person off it. He’s a gregarious character who is more than willing to laugh at himself. He joked about my ‘Merlot Line’ jersey when I had him sign it at a Bruins charity event. (He was kind enough to laugh when I told him a proper Thornton jersey would be made out of Kevlar.)

Shawn Thornton and Tim Thomas were my favorite players in the year they won the Cup. There were multiple similarities in their careers. Both were considered extreme long shots (on paper) on having a meaningful NHL career. They both overcame rough starts early on in their careers. Both of them became very good at their jobs, and you were never quite sure what they were going to say in an interview.

(As someone who has had the privilege of interviewing Bruins players from time to time, its those kind ‘He just said what?!’ of moments that make me glad I decided to become a sportswriter.)

Thornton’s ready for the next chapter. While he may miss being on the ice, there is one thing he’s glad he’ll never have to deal with again. “I’m just enjoying the thought that I’m never going to have to get punched in the face ever again for the rest of my life,” said Thornton.

Don’t say never just yet Thorty. You might see Matt Cooke at an alumni game.

So Godspeed Quiet Man.  It was fun to watch you on the ice, and a personal life highlight to meet you in person.