The file on Joe Thornton
Joe Thornton was born in Ontario, Canada. He spent most of his youth playing hockey in his hometown of St. Thomas. At the age of 15, Thornton was drafted by the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (Soo Greyhounds), a junior ice hockey team, in the 1995 Ontario Hockey League (OHL) Draft. Despite having a short amateur career in Canada with the Soo Greyhounds, he finished with 198 points, 127 assists, and 71 goals, which earned him a Rookie of the Year and OHL Second All-Star Team honors. After his second season with the Soo Greyhounds, Thornton was selected with the No. 1 pick in the 1997 NHL Draft by the Boston Bruins.
Thornton scored his first NHL goal in a 3-0 victory against the Philadelphia Flyers on Dec. 3, 1997. He averaged eight minutes and five seconds per game as a rookie. In his sophomore season, the 6-foot-4, 220 pound centerman had 41 points in 81 games and nine points in 11 playoff games. The Canadian quickly gained a reputation around the league for his intimidating physique and received the nicknames, "Jumbo Joe," "Big Joe Thornton," and even "The Hammer."
Before the start of the 2002–03 season, Thornton was named as the Bruins' team captain. In his first year as team captain, he recorded 68 points over 66 games. The Ontario native went on to have his first career 100-point season with 36 goals, a career-high, and 65 assists in 2002. "Jumbo Joe" played for the Bruins for seven seasons, five as its captain.
Thornton was involved in a four-player trade, which sent him to the San Jose Sharks for forwards Marco Sturm, Wayne Primeau, and defenceman Brad Stuart, on Nov. 30, 2005. At the time of the trade, the Bruins' general manager Mike O'Connell decided to ship the captain, who was leading the Bruins in goals, because he questioned Thornton's behavior on and off the ice. O'Connell also said that it would be "satisfying" to see Boston win a Stanley Cup before "Big Joe Thornton" would ever do so with the San Jose Sharks.
With a fresh start with San Jose, "The Hammer" racked up 92 points in 58 games and finished the 2005-06 season with a league-leading 96 assists. In addition, Thornton won the Art Ross Trophy as the league's top scorer with 125 total points. To go along with winning the Art Ross Trophy, the newly acquired San Jose Shark was awarded the Hart Memorial Trophy as league MVP, making him the only player in NHL history to win both trophies while playing for two different teams in the same season.
Thornton signed a three-year, $21 million contract extension with the Sharks on Oct. 16, 2010. Later that year, he scored the fourth hat trick of his NHL career against Martin Brodeur in a 5-2 win over the New Jersey Devils. However, Thornton's accolades did not end there. He passed Patrick Marleau as the Sharks' all-time leader in assists and scored his 1,000 career point with a goal in a game against the Phoenix Coyotes on April 8, 2011.
The Sharks signed Thornton to a 3-year contract extension on January 24, 2014. He finished the 2013-14 season with 11 goals and 65 assists, helping the Sharks to reach 111 points. But, Thornton and the Sharks' playoff push would once again come to a bitter end. The Los Angeles Kings shocked Sharks fans by becoming only the fourth team in NHL history to win a playoff series after trailing three games to none.