(Photo Credit: Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

By: Jeff Playdon | Follow me on Twitter @PlaydonJeff

Born on July 23rd, 1977, Shawn Thornton came into this world and would soon grace us with his ferocious play of hockey. Shawn Thornton was a household name for Bruins fans from 2007-2014. His team leadership and ability to stick up for teammates were unlike no one else. Thornton began playing minor hockey for the Oshawa Minor Generals of the OMHA’s Eastern AAA League. He was then drafted in the ninth round by the Peterborough Petes in the 1995 OHL Priority Selection.

Drafted into the NHL

In the 1996 NHL Draft, Shawn Thornton attempted to get drafted but was not selected by any team. However, the next year in the 1997 NHL Draft, Thornton was selected by the Toronto Maple Leafs with the 190th pick. Although Thornton was selected by Toronto, he never got to play for them. Instead, he was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks during the 2001-2002 season. During his six seasons in Chicago, Thornton didn’t get much playing time, as he only played 31 games and was then traded to the Anaheim Ducks in 2006.

Thornton’s Career Starts Taking Off

In Anaheim, Shawn Thornton played 48 games but only accounted for two goals and seven assists for nine points. Despite the Ducks making the playoffs and winning the franchise’s first Stanley Cup, Thornton didn’t see one minute of ice-time. Then, during the 2007 offseason, the Boston Bruins contacted Thornton and signed him to a three-year, 1.5 million dollar deal. It was here in Boston where Thornton’s career was finally about to take off. During his first three seasons in Boston, Thornton played 211 games and accounted for 28 points.

Heart of the Bruins

During Boston’s 2010-2011 season and coveted Stanley Cup run in the 2011 NHL Playoffs, Thornton was becoming a locker-room vocalist for the Boston Bruins. If the opposing team were to throw a cheap shot at a Bruins player, Thornton was always there to step up for his team. Need a big hit? Thornton has you covered. Need to win a fight to get the crowd behind you? Thornton has you covered. Shawn Thornton was a perfect example of a player you loved having on your team, but you hated it if you had to go against him. Finally, after beating Vancouver in the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals, the Bruins were champions. Thornton was now a two-time Stanley Cup Champion.

Two years later, while still on the Bruins, Shawn Thornton would face a lengthy suspension for his protective actions for his fellow teammates. On December 7, 2013, Thornton tried to goad Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik into fighting after Orpik delivered a borderline hit on Boston’s Loui Erikkson early in the first period. Orpik rebuffed Thornton’s invitation, and at 11:06 of the first period, after a whistle due to Penguins winger James Neal kneeing Bruins winger Brad Marchand in the head, Thornton approached a thicket of players from both teams, slew-footed Orpik from behind and while Orpik was on the ice, punched him at least twice. Six days later, he received his suspension after an in-person hearing with the league’s department of player safety. Thornton’s suspension ended up being 15 games.

End of Thornton’s Career

After the 2013-2014 season, the Boston Bruins informed Thornton that they would not be resigning him and that he would be a free agent. That being said, it was the end of Shawn Thornton’s career in Boston. During that offseason, though, the Florida panthers signed Thornton to a two-year deal. Thornton played three seasons in Florida and only managed to score four goals and ten assists. During the 2016-2017 NHL offseason, Thornton officially announced his retirement from the NHL. In his retirement press conference, Thornton announced that he would be joining the Florida Panthers front office.

So Shawn Thornton, on behalf of all Bruins fans and the BlacknGold Hockey Organization, we thank you for your dedication to the Boston Bruins during your playing times, and we wish you a Happy 44th Birthday!