"He's a thick, physical player," said Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli of Thornton that afternoon. "He's earned everything he's gotten."
"[Thornton's] strong and heavy on the puck. He'll defend his teammates (and) is a very good forechecker…and he's going to add to our size.
"I'm trying to strive and get some vigorous (players) and he is going to help us in that regard," he said.
So, with one stroke of a pen, the Bruins had turned a corner.
No longer willing to be pushed around by the NHL's elite, the signing of Thornton was the first step along a road that would bring a very tough Boston squad to the TD Banknorth Garden.
And Thornton, Toronto's seventh round choice (190th overall) in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft, worked, fought and punched his way into the hearts of the Hub of Hockey by leaving every ounce of his energy on the ice every game.
"Yah," said a less intense Thornton during the team's breakup day, "It was a good year and I had fun.
"And the city, I am getting to know it now, and staying here over the summer will probably help learn a little bit more."
Boston certainly had fun getting to know Thornton, whether it was through his on-ice effort or his popular vlog on BostonBruins.com.
In 58 games for the Bruins (having lost 20 contests to a broken foot), Boston's newest beat cop pounded his way to 74 penalty minutes while taking on some of the National Hockey League's toughest pugilists including Andre Roy, Brian McGrattan, Andrew Peters, Donald Brashear (twice) and Chris Neil.
Thornton's unofficial record was certainly very good in those on-ice bouts, but surprisingly, it was his work on Boston's fourth line (where he earned 4-3-7 totals) that made his first year in Black & Gold so memorable.
Often skating alongside fellow B's policeman Jeremy Reich, Thornton, Reich and their center (frequently Vladimir Sobotka or Petteri Nokelainen) wrought havoc against the opposition as they took the body time, and time again.
It surely took a toll on that line, but if you ask Thornton, it was all worth it -- for the team.
"We have a great bunch of guys in here," he said. "They battled hard all year, went through a lot of adversity, but that made our team a little bit tighter.
"I wish we could have pulled out game seven…I wish we were still playing.
"But all in all it was a pretty productive year," he said.
It was a pretty productive year for the Bruins, who, while picked last by many preseason publications, surprised the hockey world by taking the east-leading Montreal Canadiens to seven games in the Stanley Cup quarterfinals despite missing talented players like Patrice Bergeron
and Manny Fernandez for much of the season.
Thornton, who won a Stanley Cup with Anaheim in 2007, said that he believed that the Bruins are on track for some big things.
"Chicago and Anaheim were the only two places that I have ever been, and I don’t know what it was like before this year, but I think Peter and Claude have done a great job in pointing things in the right direction," said Thornton.
"I think we have a good team here…I am excited for next year, but I think that they are going to have some tough decisions to make because we have so many young guys here.
"It's exciting," he said.