Joe Thornton was drafted first overall at the 1997 NHL entry draft by the Boston Bruins. 1997 was also the year I attended my first Bruins game live. I was 10 years old. I unquestionably loved the Bruins basically from the womb, from which I emerged singing Kernkraft 400.
Here he is like a true Bruin, scoring against the Canadiens.
November 30, 2005. I remember seeing it on the front page of the morning newspaper because back then we lived like savages without internet 24/7. I was utterly shocked. We knew a trade was coming - something had to change, someone had to go. I just couldn't believe it was Thornton. Neither could he. I vaguely recall a quote of his from the particular article I read in the local newspaper in which he states that the team's failures had to be someone's fault, so he guessed getting traded meant the blame fell on his shoulders. He seemed genuinely heartbroken, and so was I. (It's important to note that at the time, I had no idea the intention was to build the team around Patrice Bergeron, the small ray of sunshine in an otherwise bleak Bruins system for a few years.)
I attended Joe Thornton's first game back in Boston as a member of the Sharks, and I was pretty mad he ended up on a good team while the Bruins still appeared to suck. It didn't help that he got kicked out of the game six minutes in for a hit on Hal Gill. I booed him.
I've gone from loving to hating and back to loving Joe Thornton over the years. The bottom line is that he is a hell of a player...a truly hilarious actor...
...but has had a seriously remarkable career. Over 1,200 games played in the NHL and 1,194 points, won the Hart Trophy and Art Ross the very same season he was traded from Boston to San Jose, and lots of other impressive numbers you ought to look up should you forget how awesome he is. His assists have been particularly impressive - he ranks within the top 25 in NHL history in total assists (852) and he is the Sharks all-time leader in assists as well.
These two assists happened minutes apart:
An amazing no-look pass:
Scoring on is first career penalty shot.
Fighting Jonathan Toews.
Now that Thornton has had his captaincy stripped in San Jose after ironically suffering the exact same historical Game 7 playoff collapse at the hands of the Kings that the Bruins once suffered at the hands of the Flyers, I can't help but feel a little bit bad for him. I'd take him back in Boston. Questioning his leadership skills may be valid, but I'd rather focus on the positives because they make for better GIFs.
Joe's also had some great moments in the media despite over the years, such as revealing what he would do if he scored four goals in a game. And playing 20 questions...
Before being drafted by the Bruins, he appeared in this video with Patrick Marleau and Roberto Luongo, where he claimed he would "like to play anywhere, it don't matter where I go." Come back, Joe.
I know I left out a lot of great moments to GIF, but I think this is sufficient for now. Let me know what I missed while enjoying these GIFs of Thornton approving of things.