Joe Thornton will go down as one of the Bay Area's greatest athletes, forever a Sharks legend. But like Bay Area greats of the past, Thornton has moved on to another team.
Thornton, after 15 seasons in San Jose, left the Sharks to sign with the Toronto Maple Leafs in free agency on a one-year contract. He told reporters Sunday that leaving San Jose for Toronto was "the hardest hockey decision I've ever had to make." Luckily, he had another Bay Area legend ease his mind.
Before deciding to leave the Sharks, Thornton spoke with several friends, including former teammates Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski, about leaving an organization he has so much history with. One of the people he also called was 49ers legendary quarterback Joe Montana.
"Joe gave me some good advice," Thornton told reporters Sunday on a video call. "That conversation, and a couple outside of hockey -- I had so many people I talked to over the last week. I'm just so blessed that I had a chance to talk to some great people.
"But (Montana's) one guy that offered me some good advice."
Montana played 13 seasons with the 49ers, winning four Super Bowl rings and two NFL MVP awards. He also famously was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs in 1993 with Steve Young ready to take the reins in San Francisco. Montana missed all of the 1991 season with an elbow injury and played just one game in 1992 as Young was named MVP.
In Kansas City, Montana proved he still had plenty of game left at 37 years old. He was named to the Pro Bowl his first season with the Chiefs and led them to the playoffs both years he served as their QB. Montana never won a Super Bowl with his new team, while Thornton still is searching for his first Stanley Cup trophy.
He believes he can win it with the Maple Leafs.
The Maple Leafs went 36-25-9 last season and failed to make it out of the play-in round of the Stanley Cup playoffs in the Toronto bubble earlier this summer. That was much better than the Sharks, though. Thornton and the Sharks went just 29-36-5 and didn't make the playoffs at all.
From Mays to Montana, many Bay Area greats have gone onto different pastures at the end of their careers. Now Thornton hopes to do what many others haven't and become a champion in his new home.