BOSTON (CBS) — Known as one of hockey’s toughest players over the past decade-plus, Shawn Thornton took to the internet on Thursday to show he does have a soft side.
Thornton wrote a story for The Players’ Tribune in which he described how and why he started The Shawn Thornton Foundation, and how thankful he is to the people of Boston for helping it grow over the past five years.
Thornton talked about how as a player, he would often visit children’s hospitals and how inspired he was by their spirit. But he also discussed how hard it was for him to visit his own grandmother, who was suffering from Parkinson’s disease.
“In 2008, when Nanny’s Parkinson’s got worse, nothing I’d ever seen had really prepared me for that,” he wrote. “She wasn’t a kid excited to meet a hockey player, she was a proud woman who was beside herself that she was in the state she was. Her voice was gone, and she was shaking so bad her arm was banging against the bed. But she kept a positive attitude and did her best to let me know she was going to be O.K. But everything I knew about being around someone who was sick sort of went out the window. When it’s your own flesh and blood who’s suffering … it’s different.
“In my hockey career, I’ve always been the tough guy. When people think of you like that for so long, you in a way become one. But in Nanny’s room in Oshawa, I had never felt weaker in my life.”
Shortly thereafter, Thornton’s grandmother lost her battle with the disease, but Thornton and the Bruins got together to try to do something to help raise funds. And in 2010, Thornton decided to host his own golf tournament — known affectionately as “Putts and Punches” — but didn’t really know how or where to begin. That’s where the people of Boston stepped up.
Getting the tournament off the ground was tough. I was going door to door in Charlestown, where I lived, asking people I knew, or local restaurant owners, if they wanted to play in my golf tournament. I wasn’t sure how much I was charging, and in hindsight I probably wasn’t prepared enough to be doing that. (It did have a catchy name, though: Putts and Punches.) But I loved Charlestown and thought it was worth a shot.
Toward the end of the day, I got to a coffee shop I knew pretty well and met with the owner, John. I explained what we were trying to do and that I wasn’t sure exactly how much we were charging. And before I could finish my sentence, he reached down and pulled out a check.
“Here, take this. Write down however much you need and I’ll be there,” he said. “The city of Boston needs more guys like you.”
He didn’t know it, but I was thinking the exact same thing about him.
Now the vice president of business operations for the Florida Panthers, Thornton’s business acumen has grown. So, too, has his golf tournament; Thornton said after the initial tournament raised $17,000, the seventh annual tournament in 2017 raised $160,000.