Joe Thornton is undoubtedly going on the San Jose Sharks' Mount Rushmore.
Thornton elevated San Jose's NHL club to a new level, putting the city's name on the Art Ross Trophy, the Hart Memorial Trophy, and the Clarence Cambell Bowl. Over the span of 15 years, Jumbo played 1,104 games, scored 251 goals, and earned 804 assists as a San Jose Shark.
Tuesday Night at the Tank marked the first time since the 2019-20 season that Jumbo played a game in San Jose and was honored in front of 12, 276 fans.
This time Jumbo was wearing a different sweater at the Tank. Thornton opted for free agency in 2020 when it became evident that the club's direction was no longer suitable for a hockey legend trying to win their first Stanley Cup. Thornton has played 2 seasons away from San Jose with the Toronto Maple Leafs (2020-21) and now with the Florida Panthers. Thornton, who recently surpassed 1,700 NHL games played, is skating with a Panthers team that are heavy favorites to make a grab at the Cup.
The Panthers and the Sharks played in another overtime game for their second contest of the season. Joe Thornton and the Panthers defeated the Sharks again, this time for Jumbo's unofficial "homecoming". The defeat was bittersweet for Sharks fans. On one hand, you cheer for the player who brought so many memories and milestones to the franchise to win it all even if it is with another club. On the other, you want the Sharks to earn more than one point per game in the standings and turn it around to try to grab a wild card spot in a wide-open Western Conference race to the playoffs. Either way, the game was one to enjoy and remember for fans in Sharks Territory, especially for those fans who approached this match with a mindset that this game could potentially be the last time that Thornton plays hockey in San Jose.