Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson knows Brooks Orpik. They were defensive partners for the United States Olympic team during the 2010 Olympic in Vancouver. They could potentially be teammates once again in the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Like just about anyone with any connection to the NHL, Johnson saw what happened to his friend when he was attacked and knocked unconscious by Bruins forward Shawn Thornton.
Prior to yesterday's game between the Blue Jackets and Penguins, Johnson offered an outside perspective on the attack.
What was your reaction to what happened between Orpik and Thornton?
"Obviously I’m biased towards Brooks. He’s a great guy. He plays hard. I think the way the game is now, whenever there is a hard hit, for whatever reason, there always seems there has to be a fight. I don’t necessarily agree with that. It’s an unfortunate thing. I doubt think Shawn Thornton tried to knock him out and hurt him. I think he’s just trying to do his job."
Why do you think that mentality of responding to hits, legal or otherwise, has developed?
"I think a lot of hit has to do with over the years, coaches and management have viewed it as if you don’t do that, you’re not tight as a team or you’re not a team guy. It forces guys, whether you think it’s a clean hit or not, guys are going to jump in. That’s become the culture of hockey. Guys almost feel like they have to whether it’s a clean hit or not."
If you were on the receiving end of a hit regardless of the legality, do you want a teammate to respond?
"If it’s a clean hit, obviously you’d like for your teammates to stick up for you but not if it’s going to put your team in a situation where you’re killing a penalty. If it’s me personally, I’d say it’s my responsibility to keep my head up. It’s a contact sport and I know what I signed up. It’s easy to say that. If one your teammates or one of your friends … it’s your natural instinct to go stick up for him. I kind of understand both sides of the coin."
What is Thornton's reputation around the league?
"I think, from what I’ve seen, an honest player. He plays his role well. Everyone knows it. I don’t think he’s had incidents in the past. I think it was a case where Brooks wasn’t lying there and got hurt, nobody would be talking about it."
Could any adjustments with regards to rules on fighting impact what happened between Orpik and Thornton?
"I don’t know. I think there have been some restrictions put on it with visors and if you fight with less than five minutes [remaining in regulation]. They’ve tried to put some restrictions on it but it’s part of the game. If you don’t want to be involved in fights, don’t play hockey. It’s part of it. If you don’t want to get hit in the head, don’t play football. I don’t know if I have a solid opinion on it to be honest with you."
(Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)