If Boston Bruins pugilist Shawn Thornton takes pleasure in helping boot the Maple Leafs out of post-season contention, he has good reason.
Thornton, who had a goal and an assist in the Bruins' 6-2 thumping of the Leafs on Tuesday at the Air Canada Centre, still wonders why he was never afforded the opportunity to wear the blue-and-white -- even just for one NHL regular season game -- during his four-year tenure in the Toronto farm system.
Thornton, a seventh-round pick of the Leafs in the 1997 entry draft, spent the following four seasons with the St. John's Maple Leafs without once getting the call to join the parent club.
"I liked playing in Toronto in front of family and friends," the Oshawa native said of Tuesday's game, adding that the Leafs were the team "that had me originally.
"I never had a shot there," he added.
'I FOUGHT 135 TIMES'
Speaking with the Boston Herald yesterday, Thornton said he never expected to have a full-time gig with the Leafs at the time.
"I fought 135 times for (the Baby Leafs) and never got a token (NHL) game for taking care of all their kids," he said.
"I'm not saying I was good enough to be an NHL player. I wasn't very good back then. But it might have been nice if they had given me a token game, thrown me a bone with one game up top."
During his tenure with St. John's, Thornton was not shy about dropping the gloves or spending time in the sin bin. All in all, he accrued 1,215 penalty minutes in 276 games with the Baby Leafs.
Thornton, now 30, did see some pre-season action with Toronto, although he figures Leafs management had their own reasons for inserting him into those contests.
"They were always kind enough to play me in every exhibition game so Tie (Domi) wouldn't hurt his hands," he said.
Thornton has four goals, three assists and 63 penalty minutes this season.