To paint a fair picture of Shawn Thornton, the Panthers' newest enforcer-type forward, an artist would need a wide brush.
Thornton will be the first to admit that his hands are most effective when balled into fists, and that he has molded a solid, 11-year NHL career out of his body shots to opponents rather than slap shots in the net.
Those same oft-bruised hands that have been involved in 127 NHL fights (according to hockeyfights.com) have been fitted with two Stanley Cup rings, one from his time with the 2007 Anaheim Ducks and the other with the 2011 Bruins.
And those same mangled hands are just as well known for signing autographs for sick children in hospitals and for carrying the Lord Stanley trophy to his grandmother's nursing home so she could touch it before passing away.
"We are very fortunate to do what we do for a living," said Thornton, 37, who has raised more than $500,000 through the Shawn Thornton Foundation to combat pediatric cancer and improve the lives of those affected by Parkinson's disease, which his beloved grandmother eventually succumbed to.
"To take an hour out of our day a few times a month to put some smiles on faces, I think that is the least we can do."
Thornton, who signed a two-year deal worth $2.2 million, will elicit smiles from Panthers General Manager Dale Tallon by supplying grit on the fourth line while displaying leadership in a dressing room filled with precocious teammates.
Thornton said that once he realized his seven-plus year relationship in Boston was ending, the Panthers were his top choice. It was mainly because of young players such as Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau and Erik Gudbranson, but the plush golf courses didn't hurt.
"I'm not coming into the locker room and say this is how I [won two Cups]. If the kids ask questions, and they would like to know what it's about, some things I have picked up along the way or any type of advice or experience, I am more than happy to share,'' Thornton said. "Their skill level is second to none.''
"I signed him to his first contract,'' Tallon said. "He can play it any way you want. He'll surprise you with his skills and he'll score some highlight-film goals, but he knows his role. His fitness level is incredible, his nutrition. He'll really be a great leader in our locker room for our young guys.''
Thornton, a skating contradiction, has constantly honed his hockey skills and does have 38 goals and 50 assists in 559 regular-season games. He also has seven points in 101 postseason games, but it's his 908 penalty minutes, including four seasons with more than 100, that usually earns the 6-foot-2, 215-pounder ice time.
Many observers believe that after two healthy scratches, Thornton's insertion into the Bruins' lineup for Game 3 of the 2011 Stanley Cup finals against the Vancouver Canucks turned the tide of the series, eventually won by Boston in seven games.
"I've worked very hard over the last 16 years to become more than a one dimensional hockey player," Thornton said. "I think I bring other things to the table. I am smart defensively, and pretty good positionally, and every once and awhile, I surprise people with some skill.''
Thornton has studied martial arts and on Tuesday is flying to Los Angeles to work with Freddie Roach, renowned boxing trainer of eight-time champion Manny Pacquiao, who also has Parkinson's. Thornton is essentially replacing the past two Panthers' enforcers, George Parros and most recently Krys Barch, two regular fight foes who have yet to land jobs.
"I'm not really good at a lot of things,'' Thornton said. "I probably strive to be a little better than average at most things, but I come from a fairly tough upbringing and I've always been able to take care of myself.
"I've always taken pride in being on top of my conditioning my whole life. … Obviously, winning a couple of Stanley Cups didn't hurt, either. All these things combined have helped me stay around a little longer than others."
Thornton doesn't want to be known as a thug, especially after being suspended for 15 games last season for pummeling a defenseless Brooks Orpik during a Dec. 7 game against the Penguins. Thornton was retaliating for Orpik's hit on teammate Loui Eriksson, that led to his second concussion in a five-week span.
"I never intended to hurt him or knock him out,'' a contrite Thornton said. "I shouldn't have done it, but I'm past it now.''
Now, Thornton will have the Panthers' backs while seeking a third ring to place on his usually swollen fingers.
"I was fortunate to be on a pretty good team [in Boston] ... so it was a lot of fun,'' he said. "But I'm excited for the next chapter."