On just his second full day in the Bay Area, the newly acquired Thornton was met with a bevy of news reporters, TV cameramen and fans at Logitech Ice for his first practice at the Sharks team facility.
It’s approaching a week since the biggest trade in franchise history went down. For Thornton, it’s all really starting to settle in and the 6-foot-4 center couldn’t be happier.
“It’s nice to finally come out here and practice,” said Thornton. “The practice facility is beautiful and it really feels good to be a Shark.”
The Sharks bounced back from a franchise worst ten-game losing streak, to win their last two against strong Eastern Division opponents, thanks in no small part to Super Joe.
“I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel, I’m just coming out and playing my game,” he said. “I’m trying to help out with the power play and work hard every night. I’m not the miracle worker. All 20 guys have played well the last couple games, not just me. Everybody’s been contributing.”
It took no time at all for Joe to become one of the boys in the locker room, and it will undoubtedly be no different when Thornton plays in the friendly confines of HP Pavilion.
“I haven’t played out here in a couple years,” Thornton said. “I’m really excited to get in the Shark Tank in front of the fans. I’ll be really excited and jacked up, so hopefully we’ll get the win tomorrow night, but I’m just going to go out and play like I have been the last three or four years and not change anything. I’m going to act like it’s a normal game even thought it’ll be my first at home.”
The London, Ontario native instantly became a role model figure upon his arrival in the locker room, as the young Sharks team has yet another proven star to watch and learn from.
“Everyone in the locker room has welcomed me in and I feel comfortable around them all so far,” he said. “I think as more games go on and being home for awhile I’ll get more and more used to everything. As I get more comfortable I’ll get more vocal and express my feelings a little more, but so far Patty has been the leader of this team. Scotty (Thornton), Alyn and Hanner are all leaders as well, so I don’t feel much pressure in that sense.”
As evident in his first two games with Team Teal, Thornton not only meshes with his new team in the locker room, but also on the ice as well. How has he been able to make the adjustment as fast as he has, posting four assists in just his first two games? The big center credits the supporting cast around him.
“I’ve got good guys I’m playing with around me,” he said. “Jonathan’s a good player and so is Scotty and we’ve got a bunch of skilled players on the power play. It’s pretty easy to come in when you’re playing with guys like we’ve got.”
It’s always easier making a big transition like the one Joe just made when you have family on the team. Joe’s cousin Scott has taken him under his wing the first few days he’s been in teal, making Joe feel welcome and allowing him to get settled in.
”I don’t think he needs any advice from me,” joked Scott. “I’m just trying to make him feel comfortable here. We’ve got a great hockey team. The players in the room here are really friendly and easy to get along with, so I think Joe’s going to fit in rather quickly.”
Scott Thornton and Scott Hannan showed the newest Shark around the Bay Area yesterday, shopping for places to stay. In the meantime he will be staying with his cousin. Although he’s been in town for just two days, Thornton likes what he sees.
“I love it so far. It’s a beautiful area and the sun’s shinning so I really like it.”
The addition of Joe has made for a couple happy linemates in Scott and Jonathan Cheechoo. Cheechoo posted two goals in his first game with his new centerman. Sharks fans will see plenty more of that in the future.
“I think it’s going to work out well,” said Cheechoo. “They’re (Scott and Joe) both pretty big boys that can work the boards. We’re good at keeping the puck low and cycling it to each other. With Joe you just have to give him the puck behind the net and try and get open for him.”
Joe’s cousin Scott couldn’t be more excited to have him on the team.
“Anytime you get a player like Joe you’re a better hockey team for sure,” added Scott Thornton. “He’s a top five player in the game. That’s not to say we’re not going to miss the guys that we traded. They were all great character players who helped the team in their own way. We will miss them, but the consolation is that Joe’s here and he’s a great player to have on our team.”
Acquiring a player the caliber of Joe Thornton
is a dream come true for Coach Ron Wilson. Although it doesn’t mean that every problem the Sharks faced is behind them, nor does it discount the fact that the three players they lost will be missed, having Joe on the team will benefit everyone.
This is evident in the results of the first two games Thorton played for San Jose. Marleau posted six points (one goal, five assists) in those two games, winning the NHL Offensive Player of the Week Award.
“Joe’s one of the best players in the League,” said Marleau. “All his linemates have to do is go out there and get open because he’ll find them.”
“Joe’s going to be a great player for a long time,” added Wilson. “He’s quite young for someone who has played as long and has accomplished as much as he has. Together with Marleau we’ve got two great centermen to really take our team places it’s never been before.”