Joe Thornton signed a one-year contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs after spending parts of the last 15 seasons with the Sharks, but he forever will be associated with San Jose. And some of that stems from who he is off the ice.
“Joe is such a humble guy,” former NBC Sports hockey play-by-play commentator Michael “Doc” Emrick told NBC Sports California.
Doc recalled a time his friend, Michael Franke, ran into Thornton and a few of his Sharks teammates after San Jose won Game 5 of the 2016 Stanley Cup Final against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Franke is the owner of the ECHL's Fort Wayne Komets, the minor league team Emrick coincidentally grew up rooting for.
“Joe has such a great sense of humor,” Emrick said. “So, the Sharks win Game 5 in Pittsburgh and this gentleman, Michael Franke, and his son go back to the hotel, and lo and behold, they press the button in the elevator, the elevator door opens and they get into the elevator. Before the door closes, Joe Thornton, [defenseman] Brent Burns and [goaltender] Martin Jones get in the elevator with them.”
The two realized they were sharing the elevator with “greatness,” after the Sharks’ 4-2 victory.
The team had one more night in Pittsburgh before heading back to the Bay Area for Game 6 at SAP Center, but it was the perfect time for the father and son to strike up a conversation with the Sharks players.
“They congratulate each of the three of them on the wonderful game they just played, and then Michael, with his sense of humor, says, ‘You know, if your contract with the Sharks runs out, and you decide you want to keep playing in maybe more humble circumstances, I think we can go $500 a week if you want to come play in Fort Wayne,' ” Emrick laughed.
“Then as the elevator opened and they got off the elevator, Joe looked over his shoulder and said, ‘That [$500] -- is that cash?’” Emrick said Thornton is a remarkable athlete and a good soul. He apparently never stops with the humor, either.
If you want to read more about his legendary career and how he came from a small Indiana town to become the voice of hockey, check out Doc Emrick’s new book “Off Mike.”