ATLANTA -- Joe Thornton
has the most assists in the NHL since the lockout, including a League-best 45 this season. With 720 points in 721 career games he’s virtually a point-per-game player, a Hall of Fame accomplishment for sure.
Put him in an All-Star Game, though, and you get an altogether different player.
Thornton, who entered the NHL in 1997, will play in his fifth All-Star Game Sunday (6 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC, RDS, NHL Radio) here at Philips Arena, but he’s still seeking his first All-Star Game point.
In what always becomes an offensive spectacle, Thornton concedes his pointless streak is quite remarkable.
“Well, I am the shutdown centerman, that’s what I told (Sharks coach and Western Conference assistant) Ron Wilson,” Thornton joked to NHL.com Saturday morning. “Last year I think I shadowed Sidney (Crosby). I think I’m going for a record. Hopefully I’m going for a record. I’d like to play in 10 and have no goals and no assists.”
And if he ends up with a secondary assist tomorrow night?
“That’s what I’m hoping not to do,” Thornton quipped. “It would be a good answer to a trivia question.”
All jokes aside, Thornton could care less if he registers a point or not in the 56th NHL All-Star Game. He may be a veteran of this midseason spectacle, but this is the one event that never gets old.
“It really is an honor being here and being part of this weekend,” Thornton said. “Being an All-Star in this sport means you’re very lucky, so I just enjoy it and I’m very fortunate.”
While most non-All-Stars use this weekend as a getaway time with family or friends, Thornton has a tradition of inviting his family and friends to whatever city the All-Star Game is in. It’s his version of a midseason family vacation, one that’s becoming an annual tradition.
“It’s a tradition now that if I make the All-Star team everybody comes to the game,” Thornton said. “It’s a good weekend.”
The competitive streak, though, doesn’t go away.
Take, for example, tonight’s Dodge/NHL SuperSkills competition. Thornton, who claimed Saturday morning that he had no idea what event he was participating in and didn’t care either way, is nevertheless fired up.
“As soon as you get in that event and actually start whatever event you’re doing it gets competitive and exciting,” Thornton said. “As soon as you touch the puck or lineup for the fastest skater, that’s when it happens.”
And, it’s all worthwhile, unless…
“I just try not to get hurt,” Thornton said. “For me it’s about getting out of here healthy and having some laughs and a good time.”
And, apparently, steering clear of the offensive zone.
Contact Dan Rosen at firstname.lastname@example.org.