SAN JOSE — Joe Thornton, after a 24-year career in the NHL in which he established himself as one of the league’s most prolific playmakers, true originals, and an all-time San Jose Sharks great, officially announced his retirement on Saturday.
Eschewing the fanfare that usually accompanies such statements after distinguished careers, Thornton, 44, instead made the announcement in his own distinctive way, on the Sharks’ account on X — formerly known as Twitter — wearing a hat and no shirt and sporting his trademark beard.
“Judging by how many people keep asking me, I guess I have to tell you, I’m officially retired from the NHL,” Thornton said as he walked outside. “I thought you guys would have figured it out sooner, but you kept asking. So here I am retiring.
“I have so much love for the game of hockey and for countless numbers of people who helped this kid’s dream become a reality. And if you’re looking for me, you know where to find me. I’ll be at the rink. Peace and love.”
Nicknamed “Jumbo” for his 6-foot-4, 220-pound frame and bigger-than-life personality, Thornton, drafted No. 1 overall by the Boston Bruins in 1997, played in 1,714 games over an NHL career that lasted until the end of the 2021-2022 season.
In a Hockey Hall of Fame-worthy resume, Thornton is sixth all-time in games played, seventh in assists (1,109) assists, and 12th in points (1,539). Thornton also played in 187 postseason games, 28th most in NHL history, and ranks 45th with 145 playoff points.
Thornton was also a four-time All-Star and an Olympic gold medalist for Canada in 2010. He captured the Hart Trophy as MVP and Art Ross Trophy as scoring leader in 2005-06 after he was traded early that season from Boston to San Jose.
After seven-plus seasons in Boston, Thornton was acquired by the Sharks on Nov. 30, 2005, and immediately changed the fortunes of the franchise for most of the next 15 years.
In a decade and a half in San Jose, Thornton played 1,104 regular season games and scored 1,055 points, marks that rank third and second, respectively, in Sharks history.
With Thornton, San Jose made the playoffs every year but one between 2005 and 2019, advancing to one Stanley Cup Final in 2016 and the Western Conference finals three other years in 2010, 2011, and 2019.
Still chasing his first Stanley Cup, Thornton left the Sharks organization after the 2019-2020 season and signed a one-year contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs as a free agent. While the Sharks missed the playoffs that season, Toronto would finish first in a newly aligned North Division only lose in the first round of the playoffs.
Thornton then signed a one-year deal with the Florida Panthers the following season and played a part-time role on the team that finished with the most points in the NHL only to lose in the second round of the postseason.
The Sharks retired Patrick Marleau’s No. 12 in February and it would not be a surprise to see the organization do the same for Thornton and his No. 19. It’s also a distinct possibility that Thornton, like Marleau, will stay with the Sharks organization in some capacity.