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Bettman upholds 15-game ban for Bruins' Thornton

NEW YORK -- NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman Tuesday upheld the 15-game ban meted out to Boston Bruins enforcer Shawn Thornton for his vicious attack on Pittsburgh's Brooks Orpik.

Bettman issued a 12-page written decision on Tuesday after hearing Thornton's appeal in the league's U.S. headquarters on Friday.

Bettman noted that the NHL Players' Association didn't dispute that Thornton's behavior breached NHL rules and warranted a lengthy suspension.

Thornton, 36, kicked the skates out from under Orpik during a game on Dec. 7, knocking him to the ice.

Thornton then punched Orpik twice in the head, leaving him unconscious on the ice and later diagnosed with a concussion.

Bettman ruled that NHL disciplinary chief Brendan Shanahan got the punishment right.

“The only question raised by this appeal is the appropriate length of the penalty, which the union contends should be reduced from fifteen (15) games to somewhere in the range of 10-12 games,” Bettman wrote.

“I find that there is clear and convincing evidence to support Mr. Shanahan's conclusion that a suspension of fifteen games is appropriate.”

Thornton is due to forfeit US$84,615.45 in salary for his actions.

Now that Bettman has heard his initial appeal, Thornton has seven days to decide if he wants to take his case to an independent arbitrator.

If the suspension stands, Thornton will be eligible to return on Jan. 11 at San Jose.

Thornton's 15-game suspension was the longest handed down in the regular season by Shanahan in his three years on the job.

Even though Thornton had never been fined or suspended before, Bettman said it was appropriate.

“Simply put, this was a bad act, with a bad result and neither will be tolerated in our game,” Bettman said.

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