Former Bruins forward Shawn Thornton joined Dennis & Callahan on Tuesday to discuss the end of his time in Boston. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
Thornton, who will hit free agency this offseason, was informed by Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli Monday that the team will not pursue re-signing him after seven seasons in Boston.
“I’ve been around a long time. I assumed it would’ve been [Chiarelli] talking to my agent Monday afternoon instead of me walking in there,” Thornton said. “There’s always a chance of me walking in there to see if I’d be a good soldier, be the extra guy for the next year or two. But I pretty much knew it was coming.
“I talked about it on Sunday with some friends and family. I got the text on Saturday saying he wanted to meet Monday. I kind of put my head around it.”
Thornton wouldn’t cite specific reasons given by Chiarelli for his decision, but the enforcer was grateful for the opportunities given to him over the years.
“It’s just the business. I said it yesterday, I did a few interviews, I’m very, very fortunate that I got to be here for seven years,” Thornton said. “It doesn’t happen anymore. Guys don’t stay around in one market, being a fourth-line guy and being a tough guy. I think you get moved around a lot more than that nowadays. So to do it in this city for seven years, I’m really fortunate.
“I think there are guys in Providence who are just ready to play, and you got to see a few of them do it last year. They’ve got to make some room for these guys. I could understand that.
“But [Chiarelli] didn’t have to tell me early. He didn’t have to tell me face to face. Everything about this organization from Day 1 until yesterday was first class, and I appreciate it.”
One reason for Thornton’s departure that’s been suggested is the league’s trend away from fighting, something Thornton has been known for throughout his career.
“I know I fight, I know I do it a lot. It’s my job and I embrace that job and stick up for my teammates,” he said. “But I think a lot of people over the last seven years said that we’ve been a great fourth line. That doesn’t come from me just fighting. Being able to play helps that.
“The league’s trying to phase it out slowly, but people are going to be fighting next year. There’s still a lot of tough guys in this league that have jobs next year and I think that it’s not going to be gone for the next few years.”
Thornton, however, doesn’t see fighting leaving the NHL down the road, either.
“I don’t think it’ll be completely gone. I’m not sure. It trends, too. When Carolina won it in ‘06 you couldn’t find a job as a tough guy the next year because they didn’t have any,” Thornton said. “When we won it in Anaheim in ‘07, guys were signing million dollar deals coming out of it because we were the biggest, baddest team in the league that year.
“Same thing in ‘11, when we won it here. The next year everyone wanted to have the biggest, baddest team. This year, Montreal gets by us and it’s, ‘Oh my God, we’ve got to go that way.’ I think the game’s the game and I think it goes up and down, there’s waves of how it goes. I don’t think it’s going anywhere.
“Now, the one-dimensional guy that sits on the bench and takes up space and only plays a minute a night, that’s been getting phased out for the last five or six years. I agree with that. But there will always be fighting.
Thornton said his lasting memories with the Bruins, aside from winning the Stanley Cup in 2011, include playing in the Winter Classic in 2010 and scoring on a penalty shot in a 2012 game.
“There were a lot of things over the seven years that were above and beyond what should have happened for my career, especially coming from having one full year in the NHL to nine in the minors to what’s happened to me over the last seven years,” he said. “It’s pretty amazing how the city embraced me.”
Following are more highlights from the interview. For more on the Bruins, go to weei.com/bruins.
On how disappointed he was with the way this season ended: “More than a little. I still think — and this isn’t to take anything away from New York or Pittsburgh — I thought we were the only team that could’ve competed with a couple of those teams in the West once it got down to the final seven games. Just the way we were built.
“We’re just as much in shock as anyone else that we weren’t playing until last week.”
On the thought of potentially having to fight a former teammate down the road: “It’s just a job. I’ve done it a number of times. It’s a part of the game. I think there’s one time where I had five fights in a row against guys I had probably roomed with in previous years.
“It’s part of it, but I don’t think about it, either. Hopefully when I come back into town we just play hockey. If something needs to be done, somebody has to talk to me or I have to talk to somebody, then it happens. It’s not something I’ll be looking to do. I don’t have any ill will against the organization or anybody here. I loved every part of it. My teammates were amazing the whole time I was here.”
On his plans for next season: “It’s not the end of the road at all. I’m hoping there’s interest out there. I talked to my agent yesterday around 2:30. He’s going to start putting some calls. We hear things through the rumor mill that there might be interest here or there. Let’s hope there’s a lot and I can move on and play for a couple of years somewhere else and come back and probably just take over your show.”