The Boston Bruins forward is scheduled to have an in-person hearing — which means a potential suspension could exceed five games — with the NHL's Department of Player Safety at a not-yet determined date after an incident that forced Pittsburgh Penguins defenceman Brooks Orpik to leave the game on a stretcher.
At 11:06 of the first period, Thornton chased down Orpik, who was involved in a scrum, and pulled the six-foot-two, 219-pound defenceman down to the ice from behind. Thornton then began punching Orpik as he lay on his back, until it was broken up by officials.
Orpik, 33, would leave the ice on a stretcher and was later released from hospital, where he was alert and conscious but there was no clear word on his status.
Thornton told reporters after the game he felt horrible for his actions.
""It's hard for me to talk about right now. I can't say I'm sorry enough. I'm sure I'll be criticized, but it's true," he said. "I felt awful. It wasn't my intention. I know Brooksie. I've gotten to know him the last seven years here. I skated with him during the lockout. I texted him a couple of times. It's not what I wanted to see or anyone to see."
The 36-year-old Thornton wasn't the only player that may not get away unscathed from the Bruins' 3-2 win.
Penguins winger James Neal faces a telephone hearing Monday for kneeing Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand, which happened moments before Thornton's infraction.
Neal, a 26-year-old native of Whitby, Ont., was given a two-minute penalty for kneeing, while Marchand remained in the game.