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Thornton sits down with NHL media
Views on San Jose's success
2/8/09 - By Mike Lee

In preparation for Tuesday's marquee showdown between the Sharks and the Boston Bruins, San Jose superstar centerman Joe Thornton sat down for an interview with media covering the NHL. Thornton was candid as the biggest game with his former team fast approaches. The game is potentially a prelude to a potential Stanley Cup Finals match up that would pit Thornton against some former teammates, but more importantly, it would serve as an exclamation point on the trade that sent shock waves around the NHL.

Here is a full transcript of that interview:

Q. A lot has been said about rookie coach Todd McLellan, but can you tell me a little bit about what Jay Woodcroft has meant to your team?

JOE THORNTON: He's been great. He actually takes care of all the video part and some of the on?ice stuff. But he breaks down the good things, the bad things in our game right then, and he works one?on?one with us after and at practices and things like that. He's been a great addition to the whole coaching staff.

Q. Also, could you tell me about the additions of Blake and Boyle and what that's allowed your offense to do knowing you've had those two back there on the defensive line?

JOE THORNTON: Yeah, they've been great. They obviously played big, big minutes. They play both power play and penalty kill. They're two stud defensemen that definitely should be up for Norris consideration. They've been great. They give other confidence to the other defense on our team, and they're good veteran guys that won Stanley Cups, so you know you can rely on guys like that, too.

Q. Obviously you want to make this one last longer than the last one. The fact that that game was so short for you a few years ago when you were here shortly after the deal, did that kind of leave a bad taste in your mouth? Do you kind of want to play a complete game now?

JOE THORNTON: Well, yeah. It's hockey and you kind of expect the unexpected, but obviously you want to play the full 60 minutes. It ended up working out well because I think we won, I'm not sure what the score was but we won pretty big that night. It worked out good; I got to eat some popcorn in the room and everything. But yeah, the plan is to play a full game and to have a good game.

Q. Why are the Sharks better this year? What's going on with that team? Is it moving the puck better from the back end?

JOE THORNTON: Well, I think with the new coach we just tweaked our system a little bit, plus we added some big players on the point, so I think when you add all that together, you're going to have a pretty good season, I guess.

Q. I'm actually working on a story on Mike Grier and would like to know from your standpoint, how would you describe his importance to the team?

JOE THORNTON: He's a big part of our team. He brings a lot of leadership, a lot of character. He's huge on the penalty kill. He blocks shots, does all the little things that don't get maybe noticed on the stats sheet and things like that. But he's a big part of this team. Yeah, he's been through a lot of wars, so you definitely can lean on a guy like that, especially for the young guys that expect what's to come down here in the last 30 games here plus the post?season.

Q. I covered the Sabres for a number of years, including the time when he was there, and I recall a lot of the players when he left saying how much he was missed in the locker room because he always seemed to have a knack to say the perfect thing at the perfect time. Have you been exposed to that, and do you have any examples by any chance?

JOE THORNTON: Yeah, he's just a real positive guy, and I think when something needs to be said, I think a guy like him definitely has ?? he can stand up no problem and address the room, and he's done that in the past. I have no examples, but he is good with talking in the room and calming guys down if it's a situation that needs to be handled a little bit or fire the guys up. So he has a good pulse on the team.

Q. Is his family's background a popular topic in the dressing room? JOE THORNTON: Yeah.

Q. What comes up about that, and how do you think that ?? how could you imagine that that family background has impacted his development as a hockey player, even though we're talking about different sports?

JOE THORNTON: No, I think just his dedication to sport, obviously his family all into football, one is in Houston, one is in Miami. No, it comes up a lot. We love talking about football because we usually have Sundays off, so he knows quite a bit about it. I think he reads your magazine front to back, as well. He's well?groomed in the sports category area. No, I think for his father just to be part of the NFL, I think he just learned a lot of discipline from him and maybe just leadership qualities from his dad. Yeah, he's just a tremendous teammate.

Q. Just kind of going back to the return to Boston, lots of time has passed, lots of water under the bridge. Are you still in touch with a lot of the players there? I can't even imagine that there would be very many guys that remain from when you played there.

JOE THORNTON: No, there's not. Well, I still talk to PJ once in a while, but I think he came in the same year as me, and that's about the only one that really started with me. Timmy Thomas was there a little bit and Patrice Bergeron was there, but that's pretty much it on the player side. You talk to the trainers a little bit here and there and the equipment guys, but everything else has pretty much all changed there.

Q. So is it then easier to go back in a situation like that, because even though it's the team where you started, there's I guess the sense that it is another game, an important game because they're the top team in the east?

JOE THORNTON: Yeah, really that's all it is to me. There's not too many ex?teammates over there, and it's just really an important game in the schedule. They're the best in the east, and we're the best in the west. So it's an important game that way rather than I'm playing against friends, I think.

Q. And then just one final follow?up. There's some of us that are imagining, like occasionally there's upsets in the playoffs, but sometimes the top teams get through, and if the top teams do get through this year, there would be a San Jose?Boston Stanley Cup final, which I guess from your perspective would look good because it means you're competing for the Stanley Cup. Do you allow your mind to wander, or is it too dangerous to do that because you've got to get there first?

JOE THORNTON: You wander a little bit, but obviously we've still got a lot of hockey to work out here. If that were to be the case it would be great because both teams made it there, but I think both teams would agree we've still got a lot of work ahead of us.

Q. Just to go back to that Boston game three years ago, the fans gave you a pretty good ride. You did not hang around long to get booed more, but they gave you a pretty good ride. Do you expect the same thing this time?

JOE THORNTON: I don't think you expect anything. I think you go in with no expectations. That's how I'll go into Tuesday's game, just with no expectations again.

Q. Do you have any regrets about what happened in Boston, or is that passed? JOE THORNTON: I have no regrets at all. That's years and years ago. I had no regrets when I played there and when I left, no.

Q. How about the feeling of being traded at that time? What did it mean to you when you got traded at that time?

JOE THORNTON: Well, I never in juniors had gotten traded, so that was my first dose of getting traded. It was a little weird, a little emotional to be leaving. But really, after I got traded, from that night on, it was tough, and then the morning came and I flew and I met my new teammates with the Sharks. I think after really that first 24 hours, I think it wasn't hard, it was just back to business, I think. It wasn't too tough after that.


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