Is it possible this year's NHL Winter Classic could be the first to feature a fight?
"Oh man, I don't know. What do you want me to say," said Thornton, Boston's effective fourth-line left wing with one goal, six assists and 61 penalty minutes in 37 games this season. "You have to understand, I never go into a game looking for a fight."
So I explained the reason for asking. These Winter Classics are perceived as events, good old-fashioned pond hockey family fun more than regular season games between rivals. In the Heritage Classic between Montreal and Edmonton and the pair of Winter Classics, there were no fights. But Philadelphia is a tough team and so is Boston. Both teams could use a win. Is it possible the winter wonderland and Green Monster setting could result in a dialing-down of intensity?
"No, I can assure you that," said Thornton in the media-packed dressing room of the Boston Red Sox. "This is a lot of fun for all of us. I'm sure it is for the Flyers, too. But I would expect both teams to approach the game like it was played in our arena or theirs. If something needs to be addressed, it will be addressed."
Wouldn't that be something? Take Me Out to the Brawlgame, live on NBC from Fenway Park on New Year's Day.
There were only five minor penalties called when Steve Begin and his Montreal Canadiens played in Edmonton for the Heritage Classic in November of 2003. Begin, now with the Bruins, said he could not recall why the game had little hostility but believes the rivalry between Boston and Philadelphia -- and intense styles of the teams -- should lead to a rugged game.
"This event is special," said Begin, as he looked around the Red Sox locker room and then the two dozen reporters at his stall. "The atmosphere is crazy with all you guys around. I'm just enjoying it for now. But I think once the game starts, we're going to forget about everything surrounding the event and treat it like another important hockey game."
Future Hall of Famer Mark Recchi, who just a few minutes earlier on the Fenway ice surface was stickhandling with one hand while shoveling snow with the other, said he expected to see a typical Bruins-Flyers grudge match. The reception they'll give their opponents on Friday will be as cold as the weather.
Did Recchi say fight?
"It's going to be intense," said Bruins captain Zdeno Chara, the reigning Norris Trophy winner. "Both teams are coming off shutout wins. Both teams play hard. We want to win. It's going to feel like a playoff game. I have no doubt it will be intense."