While his positive presence in the locker room is something most of us on the outside aren’t privy to firsthand, it’s become clear through the words of his teammates that he’s already a huge part of the fabric of the club with which he signed as a free agent in October.
Asked about his new Toronto Maple Leafs teammate during an appearance on Hockey Central earlier this month, defenceman Zach Bogosian said it’s tough to talk about Jumbo Joe without “a huge smile on your face.”
“He’s been great … He comes to the rink every day with high energy,” said Bogosian, who himself is also in his first year with the Maple Leafs. The defenceman is coming off a Stanley Cup victory with the Tampa Bay Lightning — a stint that revived his career after his time in Buffalo was cut short — and has been an important addition on Toronto’s blue line as the team looked to bring in a little more grit and toughness this past off-season.
Nearly a month after his last game, Thornton appears ready to return to Toronto’s lineup after suffering a rib fracture. Thornton rejoined Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner at practice Sunday and said he “can’t wait to play” against the Senators on Monday.
Already a prominent leader, the 41-year-old longtime Shark was getting top-line billing to start the season with the Leafs. In five games before the injury, Thornton had a goal and assist playing with Matthews and Marner and the trio had dominant puck possession numbers together at 5-on-5.
Bogosian said it’s been special to have Thornton among the team’s leaders.
“By the time I got in the league, he was already so well established,” Bogosian, who first broke into the NHL in 2008-09, said of Thornton. “You’ve got the young guys that grew up watching him or wearing his number growing up. He’s a huge, huge part of the leadership group. His attitude is infectious. It’s tough not to be upbeat and positive when he’s around. He’s been awesome.”