By Gianna Addario
---- — MIDDLETON — Boston Bruins forward Shawn Thornton is known as quite the enforcer around the NHL. Never one to back down from a fight, yesterday he took on an off-ice battle, as he hosted the fourth annual “Putts and Punches for Parkinson’s” golf tournament.
The disease is one that hits home for the Bruins’ winger who’s grandmother suffered from Parkinson’s. He was inspired to start the tournament shortly after she lost her 14-year battle with the disease and the tournament has grown ever since.
Proceeds from the event, which featured a celebrity long drive contest, 18 holes of golf, along with dinner and an auction go to The Shawn Thornton Foundation, The Boston Bruins Foundation and the American Parkinson Disease Association.
“This event just gets bigger and bigger every year,” said the two-time Stanley Cup winner, who just returned from a golf trip in San Francisco. “I even had to turn some people away, but I know just about everyone participating.
“It’s pretty tough to watch someone close to you go through that disease. I remember walking out of the nursing home in tears sometimes. She was a great person though, and will never be forgotten.”
Thornton did however touch upon a more a pleasant memory with his grandmother, when he was able to visit her after winning his first Stanley Cup with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007.
“She was fortunate enough to see me win my first Stanley Cup,” Thornton explained. “I was able to take it over to her. She was in her wheel chair, but was able to hold it above her head. I’m glad she could experience that moment with me, though.”
As the tournament participants made their way to Fencroft Country Club, they were greeted by the sound of bagpipes playing followed by an early lunch before hitting the links.
Thornton was joined by linemate Danny Paille and goaltender Tuukka Rask, as the three Bruin teammates were the celebrity captains of their four-person team.
“It’s a great day,” said Rask, who recently inked a new eight-year deal with the B’s worth $56 million, “Shawn’s done a great job with this tournament and it’s getting better and better each year. I’m a member here at Ferncroft, so I’m more than happy to come here.
“Boston’s the kind of city that makes you want to be apart of things like this. You meet a lot of good people and make new contacts, Shawn’s done a great job at that over the years. He wants to be able to give back to the community and the people here.”
Rask just returned from his native Finland, where he spent the majority of his offseason, but is happy to be back in Boston. Thornton meanwhile spends all of his time in and around the Boston area. He’s taken on a very active role in the community and just recently took part in the New Balance Falmouth Road Race, as his foundation raised nearly 12,000 dollars for cancer and Parkinson’s research.
Also on hand at the golf event was Needham’s Aly Raisman. The 19-year-old Olympic gold medalist and U.S. gymnastics teams captain just returned to her native state having been on the road for 10 out of the last 12 months since competing in the London Games last August.
A prominent fixture in the sports world, Raisman was also featured on Dancing with the Stars earlier this years. Raisman is no stranger to the Boston Bruins as she took part in a ceremonial puck drop during a January game against the Jets and is also good friends with General Manager Peter Chiarelli’s daughter, Talia.
“I have dinner all the time at their house, Peter’s a really great guy,” Raisman said before taking part in yesterday’s tournament. “It means a lot to me to be apart of this event. I like Shaw a lot. I met him back in December at a David Ortiz event and he’s just really nice. I love Boston sports, so I’m always really excited to support them.”
After the 18-holes, participants had a chance to bid on several different Boston sporting events including, a one-on-one training session with Raisman, a chance to watch the Bruins take on the Blackhwaks in a suite with 11 of your friends and an opportunity to meet David Ortiz, before catching a Red Sox game at Fenway Park.
Former New England Patriot Jermaine Wiggins, Director of Development for the Boston Bruins Foundation Bob Sweeney and NESN’s Jamie Erdhal and Leah Hextall were among the other celebrity captains involved.