Joe Thornton has been front page news in hockey circles the past 48 hours after it was learned he was signing with the Toronto Maple Leafs. And, rightfully so considering he’d been a long-time San Jose Sharks player and done just about everything in his time there outside of win a Stanley Cup.
Thornton spoke to the media after news broke he was leaving the Sharks organization and discussed a few things, among them the role he might play, where the Leafs are at in terms of being competitive, his new number and just how difficult a decision it was to leave San Jose.
Thornton Will Wear No. 97
Thornton won’t be bringing his No. 19 to Toronto. Instead, he will wear the No. 97, which he’s worn in a few international tournaments before. He mentioned that Jason Spezza called him to ask if he wanted his number and Thornton said he appreciated the gesture, but responded, “I’m not taking anything away from you.”
Spezza will continue to wear the No. 19 and Thornton added, “I couldn’t do that to him. He really is a special guy.” From Spezza’s perspective, he noted, “I have too much respect for him not to offer it,”
On Winning With the Leafs
While the jury is still out on whether or not the Maple Leafs can get through a playoff round, Thornton said he thinks the team is a contender as is. “I truly believe with the roster they have, with the guys they picked up this offseason, I think this team is ready to win now, [and] I’m ready to win.”
Thornton doesn’t have many years left in his NHL career and it’s logical to assume he doesn’t join a team he believes isn’t being considered a Stanley Cup favorite. Again, the one thing he’s yet to do is win the NHL’s biggest prize. It has to be on his radar.
Who Helped Convince Him to Leave San Jose
Thornton called leaving the Sharks, “The hardest hockey decision that I’ve ever had to make.” He added it was a conversation with NFL legend Joe Montana that actually helped convince him it was the ok to try something else.
The Sharks had been Thorton’s home for 15 seasons. There’s a certain sense of loyalty that comes with spending that much time in one place. But, like Montana did when he left the San Francisco 49ers and joined the Kansas City Chiefs, it was time for Thornton try a different approach and expand his loyalties.
Obviously, the big difference here is that Montana was one of the winningest quarterbacks of his generation, having won four SuperBowls with the 49ers.
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