TORONTO | He’s 41 years old and has a massive 1,636 NHL game experience. He also has over 1000 assists (1089) and over 1500 points (1509) to his score. Despite his record, Joe Thornton hopped onto the ice at Scotiabank Arena for a simple optional workout.
Thornton found himself only hours away from his first game in the uniform of the Maple Leafs, the team of his childhood. Prior to this year, he had spent the past 15 seasons with the San Jose Sharks and seven other seasons with the Boston Bruins.
Morning workouts, the one nicknamed “Jumbo Joe” made thousands. But he still felt the need to untie his old legs before the opener against Leafs nemesis, the Canadiens.
In Toronto, Thornton will play a mentoring role for the team’s young stars, Auston Matthews and Mitchell Marner. He signed a one-year minimum wage contract of $ 700,000. Secretly, the Ontarian must also dream of a first conquest of the Stanley Cup, who has already reached the final in 2016 with the Sharks.
For the start of the season, Thornton will be more than a big brother to his teammates. Sheldon Keefe gave him important responsibilities using him in power play, but also on the left wing of First Unit alongside Matthews and Marner.
In a few sentences, Marner has described the generational gap between himself and the man with the big beard quite well.
“He doesn’t even have a social media account,” Marner said last Monday. He doesn’t know anything about social networks. He makes jokes, he’s having fun and he’s always calm. Joe will have a big impact on our team. He does not let himself be distracted by noise from outside. We know there will be dark days, but Joe will help cheer us up. ”
At 41, Thornton has slowed down greatly. He’s never been a skate bomb, but he’ll likely tear his heart out to keep pace with Matthews and Marner five-on-five.
The 6’4 ”, 220lb forward has built his reputation as one of the best players in the NHL in the past for his vision of the game and his passing skills. The Leafs hope he still has his two main strengths.
“Joe won’t be just there to take the pressure off the shoulders of the rest of the team, he’s coming here with the mindset he wants to contribute and be successful,” defenseman Morgan Rielly said. He will also have the chance to stand out by playing with Mitch and Auston. We are very lucky to count on him. “
In the CH camp, we hear quotes about the presence of a good veteran since the start of the camp with the addition of Corey Perry. It’s a bit the same story in Toronto with Thornton. But the 41-year-old winger will be in uniform for the Leafs’ first game of the season, as Perry, 35, will watch his teammates from the press bridge.
“I grew up watching Joe play, like many of my teammates,” said winger Zach Hyman. He’s a future Hall of Fame member, he’s got a ton of experience, and he’s still a good player. He will bring several elements to the team, both on the ice and away. It is a fantastic acquisition. “
“I like Joe’s attitude, he doesn’t take anything too seriously. But in saying that, I’m also impressed with his physical condition for his age. This is probably the secret of its longevity. “
In his last season with the Sharks, Thornton had just 31 points (7 goals, 24 assists) in 70 games. In 2018-2019, he had a better production with 51 points (16 goals, 35 assists) in 73 games.