SAN JOSE -- A man wearing No. 19 hit the ice at the Sharks' practice facility Tuesday morning.
That man, of course, still was Joe Thornton, but you’d be forgiven if you didn’t immediately recognize him.
The San Jose center practiced without his famous “lifestyle beard” one day after bearded teammate Brent Burns helped shave it at a season-opening party.
A Closer Look. pic.twitter.com/Vbr61uRkU3— Marcus White (@marcuspwhite) October 2, 2018
Thornton and Burns first started growing their beards during the 2015-16 season, and they didn't shave en route to the Sharks’ run to the Stanley Cup Final that season. Burns told reporters during San Jose’s locker-room cleanout that he and Thornton had “lifestyle beards,” and Thornton said the beard was here to stay during the ensuing training camp.
The beard presented its own set of challenges for the veteran center. He told ESPN the Magazine in 2017 that, in addition to food crumbs, “[you] just have to constantly look to make sure there isn't s--- in this kind of beard.”
“Last week, I went to get the dog groomed,” Thornton said at the time. “Simple, right? There was a tree outside the place, and the wind blew and the pollen came down. I go inside and the groomer goes, "Hey, you got something in your beard." I run my hand through it, and my buddy goes, "Nope, you still have a ton of s--- in your beard." But I just feel comfortable in a beard.”
There also were the times that opponents pulled on Thornton’s beard. Then-St. Louis Blues forward David Backes was the first during the 2016 postseason. Last season, Toronto Maple Leafs center Nazem Kadri grabbed more than he bargained for when he pulled out a piece of Thornton’s beard in a fight.
“I thought I was a hockey player and not a barber,” Kadri said after the fight on Jan. 4. “I didn’t know what to expect, I didn’t mean to grab him there. He’s a big boy, I couldn’t reach all the way across his shoulder and felt like I just grabbed him in the middle of his jersey and just came down with a handful of hair.”
The Sharks were sure to save the portion of Thornton’s beard that fell out that night, and they appeared to do the same Monday. San Jose captain Joe Pavelski shared a photo on Twitter of the aftermath of Thornton’s shave.
It’s gone!!! pic.twitter.com/WCnSkGXIll— Joe Pavelski (@jpav8) October 2, 2018
There’s no word yet if Thornton’s former facial hair is on the way to the Hockey Hall of Fame.