The San Jose Sharks are not a young club in terms of NHL experience. They do not have teenagers dotting the roster, but there is just one skater in the 35 and older club. In fact, there is just one player in the 30 and older club and that player is Scott Thornton. Thirty-five may not make Thornton a spring chicken, but he is not an old-timer by any means – in body or spirit.
Do to the average age of the Sharks, Thornton’s 35 years stand out a little more than they would on most NHL clubs.
“There are a lot of guys around the league my age or older,” said Thornton. “This just happens to be a young team and it exaggerates the situation.”
Thornton is one of the fittest players in the entire National Hockey League and that allows him to continue skating in a league where many veterans had a tough time adjusting to the new rules.
“I do a lot a warming up and stretching,” said Thornton. “I always train hard and I’ve been healthy. Keeping up with the rookies keeps me young. I feel I have as much or more energy that a lot of them.”
“He’s done the work off the ice to be effective in the new NHL,” said Sharks Head Coach Ron Wilson. “I think Scott does a great job of keeping himself young.”
It is the leadership and on-ice success that Thronton exudes that sets an example for the entire team.
“I think leadership is the way you approach the game,” said Thornton. “Being older doesn’t make you a leader.”
“He can tell when the team is uptight and nervous,” said Tom Preissing. “Then he’ll break into a story about when he was in juniors and lighten everybody up. He is a great guy to have around.”
“He is a calming influence,” added Wilson. “You don’t look at him as older, just as a player with a job to do and he does it.”
Still, while mature, Thornton keeps himself young mentally.
“My attitude helps,” said Thronton. “Some days I feel 45, but most of the time I feel pretty good. Maybe I’m sill in denial. Normally I still feel like I’m in my 20’s. I don’t feel like a 16-year pro. I feel like I did in my seventh or eighth year.”
Even when it comes to the very light sprinkles of gray popping through his beard, Thornton keeps the youthful feelings flowing.
“I call it platinum streaking,” said Thornton. “I’m selective where I place them.”
Physically, Thornton has no problem keeping up with the younger set, but there is a little bit of jesting that goes with being the club’s elder statesmen.
“We give him a hard time,” laughed Mark Smith. “He’s 35 and thinks he’s 22. He still dresses like a teenager. He rolls with it. You want him in your room and on the ice.”
“He’s hilarious and he makes us laugh and keeps everyone loose,” said rookie Grant Stevenson.
Thornton still has plenty of hockey in front of him, but he knows when the age jokes might mean something.
“If I play long enough to play with guys the age of Nash (Thornton’s son), then I’ll know I’ve aged,” said Thornton.”
NEXT GAME The Sharks will host Anaheim Thursday night at HP Pavilion and tickets are still available at the HP Pavilion Box Office and at www.ticketmaster.com. The contest will be aired on FSN Bay Area, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.