A banner posted at the Norfolk Scope is stained with acrylics that read the words: Shawn Thornton Enforcing 55. There is no doubt that sweater number 55 has become one of the Norfolk Admirals primary enforcer with his 281 penalty minutes since his trade from the St. John Maple Leafs in September. However, the road traveled has not been easy for the 25 year-old.
And this past regular season remained inchoate for Thornton, who remains a favorite among fans and local radio stations in Norfolk. But comparisons were immediately made due to the same playing style and an uncanny physique between him and former Admiral Aaron Downey. The buzz around the arena welcomed him instead of the banner that is now a backdrop to his performances on home ice. Thornton, who is also nicknamed, Sugar Shawn from his Junior League days, is tired of the comparisons of the former captain and verbally stresses that he is his own man.
We spent time with Ontario native after the teams practice before the best of five series against the Hershey Bears Friday night. The winger bruiser still damped-faced, came to the interview with a tan baseball cap, answering questions faster than he gets thrown in to the penalty box.
HF: Take us to the most significant date of career.
ST: It was when I was on the golf course with my friends and I got a call from my agent that Toronto drafted me in the seventh round. [Grinning] I didn’t believe him at first.
HF: Was hockey always your dream as kid?
ST: It is every kids dream in Canada to play professional hockey. It is a lifestyle
up there. I didn’t think I would be good enough to play but things worked out for me.
HF: How has the transition been for you from the Toronto locker room to the Norfolk
ST: I played there for the last four years and they were not as close knit as the guys here. I never have been on a team where everyone gets along and has lunch together. Last year there were the clicks, the French would hang out with the French and so forth. Being a team is better than being a bunch of individuals.
HF: Can you comment on the comparisons that were made between you and Aaron Downey?
ST: I know Downs, and he is a good guy, but I am my own person and have my own identity.
HF: Was has been the most exciting part for you this season?
ST: I have not played in the playoff for five years, so to play in the playoffs is a big thing for me.