The picture somehow found its way into Joe Thornton
's carry-on luggage when he arrived in San Jose during the 2005-06 season. Patrick Marleau
found it during one of their video-game marathons and couldn't help but laugh. He had to show the rest of the boys, too.
There in all their glossy, colorful glory were current teammates Thornton and Marleau standing together and smiling like the giddy teenagers they were after hearing their names called as the first two picks at the 1997 Entry Draft at Civic Arena in Pittsburgh.
"I don't know how it came out, but he had a picture of us on draft day in his briefcase," Marleau told NHL.com. "It was pretty funny."
The laughs aside, the picture brought a flood of great memories back into the minds of both players.
The Draft's return to Pittsburgh revives memories for Joe Thornton
of the 1997 Draft. (Getty Images)
Thursday's announcement that Pittsburgh has been selected as the host city, and Consol Energy Center the host venue, for the 2012 NHL Draft only sharpened those memories. It was in that very city, just across the street in a building that is no longer standing, that NHL history began for each player.
It's not far-fetched to think that one day, current top prospects such as Nail Yakupov, Matt Dumba, Ryan Murray, Filip Forsberg and Morgan Rielly will have similar memories of the Steel City. Hey, maybe two of them will even become teammates down the road and a picture will surface of them together in Pittsburgh.
"You just recall where you stayed, little things like that," Thornton told NHL.com when asked if visiting Pittsburgh is always a little extra special for him. "When you go into that city, you have a smile on your face because that's where it all started for you."
Added Marleau: "It starts the journey of the NHL, being able to know which team you belong to so you can start your focus on being an NHL player."
Thornton recalls the nerves he felt in the weeks, days, hours and, eventually, minutes leading up to the Bruins going to the podium to make the No. 1 selection.
"They told me ahead of time that I'd go No. 1, probably a couple months beforehand, but you still don't know," Thornton said. "There are so many things that go on with the draft, with trades and stuff, that you don't really know until they call your name."
Marleau, coming off a 125-point season for the Seattle Thunderbirds of the Western Hockey League, knew he'd likely hear his name called next.
"It was just an exciting time," he said. "I had most of my family down there, a lot of cousins, my parents, brother and sister. I saw the looks on their faces and saw how proud they were. Going up there and putting on the jersey, you always see it growing up, and now finally you're up there doing it yourself.
Thornton's smile was stuck on his face for weeks.
"You just couldn't wipe it off," he said before cracking, of course, a cheek-to-cheek smile. "The thrill of throwing the jersey on finally, it's a dream and it came true on draft day."
In Pittsburgh, where more dreams will come true this June.
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl