Shawn Thornton

Bruins left wing Shawn Thornton looks to pass under pressure from Panthers right wing Krys Barch during a game last month in Boston. (Jared Wickerham / Getty Images / November 7, 2013)

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on Tuesday upheld the 15-game suspension of Boston Bruins forward Shawn Thornton that had been imposed by the league on Dec. 14.

Bettman said he found “clear and convincing evidence” to support the ban, which was issued by NHL Senior Vice President Brendan Shanahan after Thornton slew-footed and punched Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik on Dec. 7.

Orpik suffered a concussion and has not played since the incident.

The NHL Players’ Assn., according to the statement issued by Bettman, did not dispute that Thornton’s actions were “harmful” and “wrong,” but said a 15-game ban was excessive. It contended that a suspension of 10 to 12 games would have been appropriate because Thornton had never before been subjected to supplementary discipline, because Shanahan erred in concluding that Thornton’s actions were premeditated, and because incidents involving “comparable conduct” drew shorter suspensions for players in those instances.

Bettman supported Shanahan on all counts, saying he agreed that Thornton’s actions were premeditated, adding, “there is no question that the conduct was improper, intentional and involved the use of excessive and unnecessary force.”

Here’s a link to the full statement issued by Bettman.

Thornton can appeal to a neutral arbitrator, a step no player has yet taken under the current collective bargaining agreement. The Bruins, in a statement, declined to comment “until the process is complete and Shawn has exhausted all rights available to him.”

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