Sharks players emotional after Thornton signs with Leafs originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
On the ice, Joe Thornton might not be able to contribute like he did when he was younger, but off the ice, his value is immeasurable.
That's why the news that the Sharks icon signed a one-year contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday sent shockwaves through San Jose's dressing room.
Thornton, 41, spent the last 15 seasons of his career with the Sharks after coming over in a trade with the Boston Bruins in 2005. He will spend his 23rd NHL season playing closer to his London, Ontario hometown.
Shortly after the news broke, several of his now former Sharks teammates reacted on Twitter and to the media.
Brent Burns (@Burnzie88) October 16, 2020
Thornton and Brent Burns have been inseparable since The Wookie was traded to the Sharks from the Minnesota Wild in 2011. It will be strange for Sharks fans not to see the two players in the same sweater.
Mentor, line mate, friend and all of the above. Going to miss having him around the locker room. They don’t make them like him anymore! You got a good one @MapleLeafs. Good luck in Blue Jumbo! pic.twitter.com/gyDlWqRMNe— Kevin Labanc (@Str8ToTheBanc) October 16, 2020
Evander Kane posted a two-part tweet and even joked about Thornton returning to the Sharks some day.
Man I’m going to miss ya, but feel very fortunate to play with you and become great friends. So many fun memories in a short period of time. I’ll make sure to keep your seat next to me at the back of the plane vacant until you come back. pic.twitter.com/i2sJdY23nr— Evander Kane (@evanderkane_9) October 16, 2020
Erik Karlsson made it clear that he wants more photos with Thornton.
Sharks captain Logan Couture and Burns spoke to The Athletic's Kevin Kurz about the departure of Thornton.
Joe Thornton spent some time before the news broke today to call some of his Sharks teammates, including Logan Couture. “That’s just who Joe is. Such a respectful person,” said Couture — who added he has no doubt that Joe can contribute to the Leafs.— Kevin Kurz (@KKurzNHL) October 16, 2020
More Couture: “I guess it's fair to say that I'm still kind of numb about it. At the same time, it’s his choice, and everyone in this organization respects him for everything that he's done for all of us players… He’s meant so much for my career."— Kevin Kurz (@KKurzNHL) October 16, 2020
Brent Burns: “Going to miss the big guy... learned a lot from him, and just going to miss his presence. He’s one of a kind, and not anyone else like him. … Tough to see him go, but happy for him going back home near his family. I know how much they will all love that."— Kevin Kurz (@KKurzNHL) October 16, 2020
Even the Sharks' official Twitter account needed a little time to process the fact that Thornton won't be putting on a teal sweater again.
It's safe to assume that most Sharks fans feel the same way as the players and the team. It's going to take a while to get over Thornton leaving the organization.