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Boston Bruins forward Shawn Thornton laughs with a reporter as he, goaltender Tuukka Rask, far right, and teammates wait to go onto the ice for NHL hockey practice at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington, Mass., Monday, Jan. 14, 2013. (Associated Press)

Boston Bruins forward Shawn Thornton laughs with a reporter as he, goaltender Tuukka Rask, far right, and teammates wait to go onto the ice for NHL hockey practice at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington, Mass., Monday, Jan. 14, 2013.

(Associated Press)

Bruins’ Shawn Thornton appealing 15-game suspension Add to ...

Bruins tough guy Shawn Thornton has decided to appeal his 15-game suspension for punching and injuring unsuspecting Penguins defenceman Brooks Orpik.

Thornton’s agent, Anton Thun, confirmed in an email that his client was appealing. The NHL Players’ Association announced it had informed the league of that plan before the 48-hour deadline to do so passed.

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As laid out in the collective bargaining agreement, the appeal first goes to commissioner Gary Bettman. If Bettman upholds the suspension, Thornton and the NHLPA can then elect to appeal to a neutral arbitrator because it is for six or more games.

Buffalo Sabres forward Patrick Kaleta is the only player to use this appeals process under the new CBA, and no player has gone to the neutral arbitrator. Bettman upheld Kaleta’s 10-game suspension for an illegal hit on Columbus Blue Jackets defenceman Jack Johnson, issuing a 17-page decision.

Thornton got 15 games for slew-footing Orpik to the ice and landing gloved punches to his head during a game Dec. 7. The Pittsburgh defenceman was knocked unconscious and has not played since because of a concussion.

Vice-president of player safety Brendan Shanahan said it was not a spontaneous action by Thornton because he tried to confront Orpik earlier after Orpik injured Bruins winger Loui Eriksson with a hit.

Thornton had not been fined or suspended before. Several general managers and coaches around the NHL have spoken in support of Thornton’s character in his career before this incident.

The Oshawa, Ont., native apologized for his actions after the game.

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