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Shawn Thornton enjoying retirement from NHL

Forward played 14 seasons in League, discusses upcoming job with Panthers front office

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

NEW YORK -- After spending 20 seasons in professional hockey, including 14 in the NHL, Shawn Thornton is starting to enjoy life away from the rink.

Thornton, 39, played the last of his 705 NHL games on April 8 with the Florida Panthers against the Buffalo Sabres. He won the Stanley Cup twice, with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007 and the Boston Bruins in 2011.

Before starting his new job June 1, Thornton spent Thursday at the NHL offices in Manhattan for a presentation during "Take Your Child To Work Day." In keeping with the spirit of the day, Logan Kimelman, 8, helped out during a question-and-answer session with NHL.com

 

How does it feel now? Has retirement set in?

"A lot of my friends say I'm a lot more relaxed now. It's been a good three, 3 1/2 weeks that it's been. Just at home, enjoying my time off. Starting to work out a little bit again just so I don't get fat. But it's nice to know that I'm never going to have to train as hard as I used to. Now it's just to stay skinny, not to get ready to play at the highest level."

 

You had such a routine for so many years as a player; get on the ice in August, start ramping up for training camp in September. Do you think when the fall rolls around you'll get the hunger to play?

"No. I'm looking forward to not having to do that. Everyone saw me throw the skates in the garbage [after his final game]. I wasn't kidding. I'm not putting those things on for a long time. I'm going to start getting into some other stuff. I'm going to have to stay competitive at something, so I'm thinking jiu-jitsu might be my next thing I try to throw myself into."

Video: BUF@FLA: Cats fans honor Thornton in final home game

 

You looking to start a second career in mixed martial arts?

"Not MMA; I never want to get punched in the face again. I've been doing jiu-jitsu in the summer for the past six or seven years. I'm going to start Saturday rolling with this guy AJ Sousa down in Florida; he's pretty good at what he does. That will keep my mind occupied. I need to compete at something. I'm not good enough at golf so I'll try some jiu-jitsu."

 

So when you're not pounding on guys on the mat what are you going to be doing?

"I start June 1 moving into the front office of the Florida Panthers. I'll be working with Matt Caldwell, our president and CEO and [chief of staff] Sean McCaffrey and learning the business side of things. Try to stay away from the hockey side of things as much as possible. Really learn the business and see where that takes me."

 

Why the business side rather than the hockey operations side of the game?

"The Panthers' ownership thought I'd be good on that side of things. I think they're in a good place now with [general manager] Dale [Tallon] and the management team they have. It would have been Dale's decision to bring me on, and I didn't even ask. There's also a little more security on the business side. If your team doesn't do well on the hockey side, you're gone. The business side, as long as you're putting an effort in, things are trending upward, you're usually safe. After 20 years of playing hockey and not knowing where you're going to be one day to the next, I'm excited to settle in with the family and be in one area for the immediate future."

 

Had you been curious about the business side of things during your playing days?

"More so than a lot of guys. When I was with Boston I was always meeting corporate sponsors, going to dinners with whoever was on the road trip. I was in the office a lot with Amy Latimer (former Boston Bruins senior vice president of sales and marketing), Chris Johnson (Bruins vice president, corporate partnerships), Matt Chmura (Bruins vice president, marketing and communications). I was around it a lot. I wasn't doing it but I was around it a lot. Maybe had a little more feel being that I was hanging around the office more than most players who just show up at the rink and take off. I was always curious and wanted to learn a little bit. Being in the community a lot with both organizations, Florida and Boston, gave me an idea of what I'm getting into. I don't know it all, but I have a small taste of what I'm going to be getting into."

 

The Stanley Cup Playoffs are going on now. How much of it have you watched?

"I watched Game 6 of Boston and Ottawa. … I'm still good friends with a few guys on that team [Boston], so I was curious to see what was going to happen. That was the only game I've watched."

 

Did anything from that game in particular stand out to you? Or were you just watching to see how some of your friends did?

"I was watching my friends, seeing how they'd do. I felt bad for [Bruins goalie] Tuukka [Rask], the last goal. Unfortunate bounce. Tough penalty going into overtime. Playoffs, you can't go into overtime shorthanded. Never seems to work out. I was just relaxed watching."

 

You played more than 700 games in the NHL, you won the Stanley Cup twice, you were a well-respected teammate. Is there something you take the most pride in from your career?

"If I want to be remembered for something it would be the giving back and being in the community and being a good teammate. I did a job for a living and I'm going to have to explain to my kids one day why I did it. Wasn't because I enjoyed it or enjoyed punching people. It was a small part of it. I'm most proud of probably how I've created my own foundation (The Shawn Thornton Foundation), giving a lot of money back. Did a lot of hospital visits, was involved in the community, maybe more so than a lot of people know and I'm OK with people not knowing. I was happy to be able to give back when people knew who I was."

 

Speaking of the foundation, and you talked about how you threw your skates in the trash after your last game. You later auctioned them off for your foundation. How much money did that raise?

"They went for $2,500."

 

Here's where the junior reporter stepped in.

How did it feel to win the Stanley Cup two times?

"Other than my daughter being born those are the two greatest days of my life. In Anaheim I never thought I'd play in the NHL, so winning the Stanley Cup that time was very exciting and the coolest experience ever. The second time, when I won it in Boston, probably meant more because I was more involved in winning it. I felt like I was a part of that one. In Anaheim I was just there; right place, right time."

 

How many seasons did you play in the NHL?

"Off and on for 14 or 15, I think; 20 years pro, nine in the minors, 11 full-time in the NHL. But I was up and down [from the American Hockey League] four or five years before I made it full-time."

Tweet from @NHLAdamK: It's Take Your Kids To Work Day so I took my son to work and he scored an interview with Shawn Thornton pic.twitter.com/Xjm5wQ3wDa

 

What teams did you play for?

"I was drafted by Toronto [Maple Leafs] and played in their minor league system for four years. Got traded to Chicago [Blackhawks], played a few games there. Then Anaheim, Boston and Florida."

 

Who was the funniest teammate you had?

"There's been a few. The assistant coach in Toronto, D.J. Smith, he was my teammate in the minors. He's a pretty funny guy. He's a guy that when you talk to him everyone around him starts talking like him."

 

What was it like to be in the locker room with Jaromir Jagr?

"He's special. He's played 25 years, and not by accident. He's one of the hardest-working guys I've seen. He's still playing because he loves the game and has fun with it. That's the secret. He's a character. He's got a lot of things going on. He was a really good teammate. He was really good for us in Florida. He's fun to be around. He's different, but he's fun to be around."

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