Joe Thornton currently is in his 15th season with the Sharks after being acquired by San Jose in a trade with the Boston Bruins during the 2005-06 NHL season. He spent the previous year in Davos, Switzerland while the league remained in lockout, where he paired up with one of the NHL's rising young stars.
More than a decade-and-a-half later, Rick Nash still fondly remembers the time he spent playing alongside one of the most prolific passers to ever play the sport.
"When me and Joe first played together in Switzerland, it was really kind of instant chemistry," Nash recalled to NBC Sports California. "For the first couple games, we played together. On the power play, we played the whole season together. The easy thing about playing with Jumbo was he told you, 'Just go to the net with your stick down. Go to the high slot with your stick on the ice and I'll find you.' We had a lot of success with that over the years, at World Championships, obviously in Davos.
"He's such an easy guy to play with and his skill is so high and his passing ability is so high, it just makes sense why he has that many assists in the NHL."
At last check, Thornton was up to 1,082 career assists, good enough for seventh place on the NHL's all-time list. You don't accumulate that many helpers without being supremely skilled, but as Nash explained, Thornton always has brought a lot more to the table than what he could do with the puck.
"The thing that made Joe different from other teammates was, No. 1, off the ice, he was always a happy guy, always had a smile on his face," Nash said. "He was always around the rink. For me, being a younger guy, he was someone I looked up to on how to be a pro, how to extend my career, how to be good to the other guys that I was kind of taking under my wing. On the ice, it was obviously his skill to make plays and make passes.
"For me and my style of game, I was always a shooter. I always liked to score goals, so we kind of accompanied each other perfectly. To this day, I don't think there's an easier guy to play with than Joe."
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To spend 22 seasons in the NHL -- and one in the top Swiss league -- it requires not only an abundance of talent, but competitiveness to match. According to Nash, while he has seen plenty of Thornton's competitive streak on the ice, he experienced it off of it, as well. Specifically, when it came to the board game of world domination known as "Risk."
"We started this game with his brothers and his friends and my friends," Nash explained with a chuckle. "Dinner time would roll around, and we would bring the Risk board to dinner. So if you could only imagine trying to keep all those pieces on the board driving the car through the Swiss mountains to get to dinner to set up our Risk game, and once we got there, guys would be arguing about how many soldiers they had on which country.
"It was always that stuff away from the rink that made hanging out with him so fun."
The Sharks know as well as anyone just how fun and talented Thornton can be. While world domination is a lofty goal, they'd all gladly settle for a Stanley Cup.