National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman delivered the decisive blow Tuesday, upholding Thornton’s ban for punching and concussing Pittsburgh Penguins defenceman Brooks Orpik in a Dec. 7 game.
Bettman heard Thornton’s appeal in New York on Dec. 20, six days after the player was suspended for pulling Orpik down during that Dec. 7 contest and punching him several times in the head, leading to a concussion.
Thornton, who forfeits $84,615.45 US in salary as a result of the suspension, is eligible to return Jan. 11 against San Jose.
Thornton and the NHL Players' Association could still elect to appeal to a neutral arbitrator.
"Shawn's been a real good player for us," Bruins head coach Claude Julien said prior to NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan suspending Thornton. "Him missing in our lineup, we've lost a little bit of his leadership. We've lost his presence as far as what his line brings to us."
Shanahan said it was not a spontaneous action by Thornton because he tried to confront Orpik earlier in the Dec. 7 game after Orpik injured Bruins winger Loui Eriksson, knocking him out of the game with a concussion.
Shanahan cited the two-minute roughing penalty Thornton received for trying to engage Orpik in a fight at that time as a sign of premeditation.
"This cannot be described as a hockey play that went bad, nor do we consider this a spontaneous reaction to an incident that just occurred," Shanahan said in his video ruling. "It is our view that this was an act of retribution for an incident that occurred earlier in the game, the result of this action by Thornton was a serious injury to Orpik."
Orpik has not played since the game and is on injured reserve.
"He's a pretty honest hockey player who made a mistake," said Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma of Thornton, who is serving the first disciplinary action of his 10-plus NHL seasons. "[Shanahan] made a ruling, I think, that says volumes about getting that kind of play out of the game."
Buffalo Sabres forward Patrick Kaleta is the only other player to use the appeals process under the new collective bargaining agreement. On Oct. 24, Bettman upheld the Sabres superpest's 10-game suspension for an illegal hit on Columbus defenceman Jack Johnson.