Big Joe Thornton Retires From Playing Hockey

Joe Thornton has officially announced his retirement from the NHL following a 24-year career as one of the game’s top playmakers. The 44-year-old Thornton hadn’t played since the 2021-22 season with Florida but hadn’t made an official declaration about his plans until releasing a video Saturday through the¬†San Jose Sharks. Thornton entered the NHL as the No. 1 overall pick by Boston in 1997, had his greatest success in 15 seasons with San Jose following a trade to the Sharks, and then finished his career by playing one season in Toronto and Florida.

He played 1,714 regular-season games, recording 1,109 assists and 430 goals. He was a four-time All-Star, an Olympic gold medalist for Canada in 2010 and won the Hart Trophy as MVP and Art Ross Trophy as scoring leader in 2005-06 after getting traded early that season from Boston to San Jose. Thornton ranks seventh all-time in assists, 12th in points with 1,539 and sixth in games played. About the only thing Thornton didn’t accomplish was winning a Stanley Cup, losing in his only trip to the final round in 2016 with the Sharks against the¬†Pittsburgh Penguins.

But with his pristine playmaking and iconic beard, Thornton became the face of the Sharks franchise after being acquired from Boston on Nov. 30, 2005. San Jose had only intermittent success before his arrival but made the playoffs all but two seasons during Thornton’s time with the Sharks. He helped the team win the Presidents’ Trophy with the best record in 2008-09, make back-to-back conference finals appearances in 2010 and ’11, the Stanley Cup Final in 2016 and another trip to the Western Conference final in 2019. His No. 19 will one day be raised to the rafters at the Shark Tank next to his old running mate Patrick Marleau’s No. 12 that was retired earlier this year.

At the time of his retirement, Thornton was the last active player in any of the major North American professional sports leagues to have played in the 1990s, and the last active NHL player to have played in an NHL game against Wayne Gretzky. Thornton is married to Tabea Pfendsack, whom he met while playing in Switzerland during the¬†2004‚Äď05 NHL lockout. The couple has a daughter and a son. Born in St. Thomas,¬†Ontario, Thornton became a naturalized American citizen in July 2009 at a ceremony in¬†Campbell,¬†California, a suburb of¬†San Jose; he later also received a Swiss passport. Joe and former Sharks teammate¬†Scott Thornton are first cousins.

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