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PITTSBURGH – Like the other natural wonders of the modern world, Joe Thornton’s beard has to be witnessed in person to truly appreciate its grandeur.
The sheer mass of it. The waterfall of gray that streaks down the center, making it appear as though he attempted to sing with a mouth full of milk. The way it frays off on the edges, sweeping off in various directions like the tidal tail of a galaxy.
Somewhere behind it lurks the San Jose Sharks star.
“My brother John always has a huge beard. So I kinda follow in his and Burnsie’s footsteps,” said Thornton of his epically bearded teammate, Brent Burns. “I got two mentors that have a bigger one than me.”
Burns said that in the last couple of years, his beard has “taken off a little bit,” having not shaved for 10 months.
“Jumbo’s got a good one too,” he said. “The ‘ol Dodge racing stripe.”
Burns said he has a collection of items that have allowed him to keep the beard looking good and free of, say, vermin. Like a Jedi to his apprentice, he’s passed on that knowledge to Thornton.
“Burnsie helps me. He gets me all the oils, the combs. In the morning you get up and oil it and comb it. And then at night, you have to oil it a little bit and comb it,” said Thornton. “It looks pretty. But it’s hard work.”
It’s been quite a transformation for Thornton, considering how he looked in his younger years:
Do he think he looks better with the beard?
“Um … no,” said Thornton, with some certainty.
In fact, there’s really only one individual in his life these days that seems to appreciate it.
“We got a new cat recently and she keeps putting her paws in it. Other than that I don’t think it’s very nice, personally,” he said.
Thornton was asked if he’d keep the beard after the playoffs, and he said its existence is tenuous at best.
“It’s day to day,” he said. “I could come tomorrow and it’s gone. Or you could see me 10 years from now and I’ll still have it.”
We’re going with the latter, unless someone has the kind of industrial strength clippers that would be necessary to trim it. Perhaps he can borrow one of the mowers they use on the outfield at Giants games, for example.
If nothing else, it makes one interested in seeing the Sharks win the Stanley Cup, only to see it consumed by Thornton's beard like a chipmunk running into an overgrown forest.
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