There’s been top-10 lists. Top-five lists. Video highlights.
But here’s a way to remember Joe Thornton’s time with the San Jose Sharks that you can hold with your hand: This is Jumbo’s definitive hockey card history in teal.
Card shown: 1996-97 Upper Deck Black Diamond #160
Purchase price: About $200
The San Jose Sharks didn’t draft Thornton, but a rookie card is the centerpiece of any player’s hockey card history.
Thornton has just three official rookie cards (1996-97 Upper Deck and 1996-97 Upper Deck Ice), but this is the definitive RC because of its scarcity.
Card shown: 2005-06 Parkhurst Season Highlights Facsimile Auto Parallel #591 Joe Thornton (print run: 100)
Purchase price: About $10
On November 30, 2005, San Jose Sharks history changed when they acquired Thornton from Boston for, according to the back of this card, “three players.”
And no disrespect to Marco Sturm, Brad Stuart, and Wayne Primeau — and their distinguished careers — but they were just guys compared to San Jose’s first true superstar.
To underscore Thornton’s offensive impact — and points aren’t everything — but Sturm, Stuart, and Primeau combined to score 454 points in their remaining 23 NHL seasons after the trade. Thornton eclipsed that figure by himself within five seasons in San Jose.
There’s a base version of the card shown without the Facsimile Auto that goes for about $1.
Card shown: 2019-20 Upper Deck Ultimate Collection Ultimate Icons Autograph Jersey #UIA-JT (print run: 65)
Purchase price: About $25
Thornton went on a tear after the trade, putting up 72 assists in 58 games, good for a total of 96 assists.
Per Hockey Reference’s adjusted-by-era stats — those 92 adjusted assists put Thornton in rarified company.
Just five players have registered 90-plus adjusted assists in a season. Three of them are named Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, and Bobby Orr. Jaromir Jagr also achieved this feat with 94 adjusted assists in 1998-99. Along with Gretzky and Orr, Thornton is the only player to surpass this lofty figure twice (92 again in 2006-07).
Per adjusted (and unadjusted) assists, Thornton’s 2005-06 still stands as the more prolific playmaking season of this millennium.
For his efforts, Thornton became the first San Jose Sharks player to win the Hart Trophy.
The card shown depicts Jumbo with both the Hart and Art Ross trophies. There are numerous versions of this card, some unautographed, some autographed with a patch jersey swatch.
Card shown: 2010-11 Panini Dominion All Decade Autograph Jersey #JT (print run: 50)
Purchase price: About $20
Thornton has a good argument for the best center of the 2000’s.
His 823 points and 580 assists topped the entire league during the decade. His 580 helpers were 133 more than runner-ups Daniel Alfredsson and Brad Richards.
The card shown also has different versions, some with just a jersey swatch and some with just an autograph.
Card shown: 2011-12 Panini Pinnacle #119
Purchase price: About $1
For all his regular season exploits, however, the early part of Thornton’s career in San Jose was marred by playoff disappointment after playoff disappointment.
This began to change in 2010, when Thornton and Patrick Marleau finished off back-to-back Western Conference champs Detroit Red Wings in the second round, propelling the San Jose Sharks to their first Conference Finals appearance since 2004.
The next year, Thornton scored the only playoff overtime goal of his career (so far). This Game Six strike carried the Sharks past the Los Angeles Kings in the first round and prompted the iconic celebration depicted on this card. San Jose would advance to the Western Conference Finals once again.
Jumbo & Patty
Card shown: 2010-11 Playoff Contenders Draft Tandems Autograph #12 Patrick Marleau/Joe Thornton (print run: 25)
Purchase price: About $50
Speaking of Marleau, he and Thornton were intertwined in so many ways: Back-to-back opening selections of the 1997 NHL Draft, San Jose Sharks teammates for 13 seasons and 1,111 regular season and playoff games….
In perhaps fitting bookends, Marleau played 58 games with Thornton in 2005-06 after the trade…then Thornton played 58 games with Marleau in 2019-20 before Patty was dealt at the Trade Deadline.
There’s a base unautographed version of the card shown that can be had for about $1.
Card shown: 2013-14 Panini National Treasures Knights in the City Materials Prime #KN-TH Joe Thornton/Tomas Hertl (print run: 25)
Purchase price: About $20
“I’d have my cock out if I scored four goals. I’d have my cock out, stroking it.”
That’s what Thornton interjected in the locker room after he heard the media questioning whether or not 18-year-old Tomas Hertl’s fourth goal on October 8, 2013 — a between-the-legs spectacular — should be considered showboating.
Since there isn’t a trio card depicting Jumbo, Tommy, and a chicken, this card — from Hertl’s rookie year — will do. There’s also a more inexpensive version of the card shown, serial numbered to 99.
Card shown: 2016-17 SP Authentic Authentic Moments Spectrum Autograph #104
Purchase price: About $60
After the 2014-15 San Jose Sharks missed the playoffs, most observers figured their window for contention had closed — and without a Finals appearance for Thornton and Marleau.
And while the Sharks weren’t able to hoist the Cup, reaching the 2016 Stanley Cup Final is still the crowning achievement of the franchise’s history.
There’s also an unautographed version of this card that goes for about $2.
Card shown: 2019-20 SP Authentic Sign of the Times 2 Autograph ST2-BT Brent Burns/Joe Thornton (print run: 25)
Purchase price: About $75
Thornton built so many lasting relationships on the San Jose Sharks, it’s hard to pick out just a few. Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, Dan Boyle, Evgeni Nabokov, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and Jonathan Cheechoo are among the luminaries that will only get a mention here.
But from walking shirtless in Pittsburgh, barber shop commercials, and posing naked together in ESPN’s The Body Issue, Thornton and his beard buddy Brent Burns became inseparable in the public consciousness.
The last few seasons of Thornton’s tenure in San Jose was the march of passing one milestone after another. Here’s a cardboard celebration of a few of these moments.
On March 6, 2017, Thornton became the 13th player in league history to reach 1,000 assists.
Card shown: 2017-18 O-Pee-Chee #556
Purchase price: About $1
On April 4, 2019, Thornton collected his 1,064th career assist, passing Steve Yzerman. Thornton wore No. 19 as a tribute to his childhood idol.
Card shown: 2018-19 Upper Deck Game Dated Moments #82
Purchase price: About $5
Thornton clocked 1,600 games played on December 12, 2019. In the process, he and Marleau became the first teammates, each with 1,600 games played, to suit up together in a game.
Card shown: 2019-20 Topps Now NHL Stickers #94 Joe Thornton/Patrick Marleau
Purchase price: About $3
On February 4, 2020, Thornton became the 14th player in NHL history to record 1,500 points.
Card shown: 2019-20 Upper Deck Game Dated Moments #49
Purchase price: About $5
Thornton leaves San Jose with a career 1,636 games, 420 goals, 1,089 assists, and 1,509 points.
Next up for the future Hall of Famer? Dave Andreychuk’s 1,639 games for eighth place in all-time games, Paul Coffey’s 1,135 assists for sixth place in all-time assists, and Coffey’s 1,531 points for 13th in all-time points. And hopefully, a Stanley Cup.
Here’s to more Jumbo-sized historic achievements in Toronto!