The process will begin with a hearing with commissioner Gary Bettman, who will have the opportunity to shorten, lengthen or maintain the 15-game suspension levied by the NHL's Department of Player Safety. If Bettman keeps Thornton's suspension at six games or more then he will have the option of a hearing with an independent arbitrator who would determine whether the punishment was appropriate. Buffalo Sabres forward Patrick Kaleta appealed a 10-game suspension earlier this year, which commissioner Bettman upheld. Kaleta opted not to stand before an independent arbitrator.
Thornton knocked Orpik unconscious after punching the Pittsburgh defender while he was laying on the ice. Orpik sustained a concussion as a result of the play and required a stretcher to be removed from the playing surface. He has been unavailable to the Penguins since the incident. Thornton attacked Orpik as the result of a hit Orpik administered to Bruins forward Loui Eriksson. Eriksson sustained a concussion on the play and has been out since.