Here’s the complete transcript from Joe Thornton’s availability this morning.
Thornton, on free agency process this off-season:
There were some teams that were interested. Doug wanted me to come back to San Jose.
I started talking with Kyle and Sheldon.
It was probably the hardest hockey decision I’ve ever had to make. But I truly believe Toronto, with the roster they have, with the guys they picked up this offseason, this team is ready to win now. I’m ready to win. I’m just excited I’m coming to be a Maple Leaf.
Thornton, on other factors, including family, which led him to hometown Toronto:
It did. It did.
Obviously, my parents are right there, about an hour and 40 minutes away. That was part of it, they could be around their grandkids a lot.
But really, it’s because of the hockey team, honestly. This team is a very, very good team.
I need to win a Stanley Cup. This is a great team that can do that.
There’s a couple things that helped along the way. But I really, really liked this team. Liked, love this organization.
It was a little bit family. But mostly hockey.
Thornton, on how close he was to coming to Toronto in 2017 and what changed this time:
I gave it a long hard thought, but it just didn’t work out back then. And now, I honestly just felt it was a great move for the family. We’re over here in Switzerland until the season starts. It’s going to be an easy transition for my kids and wife. It felt like the right time to make the move. Just super, super excited, man.
Thornton, on how he sees his role in Toronto:
I just want to help out. Anyway I can. By playing over here [in Switzerland], I’m going to be in great game shape coming back home and playing for the Leafs. Really, whatever role Sheldon wants to play me, I’ll be ready for it. Just help out as much as I can off the ice, on the ice. I think I’ve got lots of hockey left in me.
Thornton, on if making move now was to possibly avoid what happened last Trade Deadline when Sharks were unable to move him:
Really had nothing to do with that, to be honest. I get over things pretty quick. It just didn’t happen, for whatever reason.
But me and Doug’s relationship has always been great. Always will be great. So it really had nothing to do with what happened last year.
Having a chance to go to Toronto, play in Toronto, have a chance to win the Stanley Cup in Toronto, it’s special.
Thornton, on Jason Spezza offering No. 19 to him:
I’m a Facetime guy. I liked Facetiming guys. Apparently, he does too. So he’s my kind of guy.
He Facetimed me yesterday and said, “Hey man, do you want No. 19?” I said, “Nope.” I’m not taking anything from you. It was a real nice gesture from him. But I’m going to wear 97. I’m worn it in some international tournaments before.
We had a good laugh at it. But he’s a special guy. It was a nice [gesture]. But not going to take it from him.
Thornton, on his message for San Jose Sharks fans:
Oh, man. I was there for 15 years.
They brought me in with open arms. They loved me; I loved them right back.
The people were so kind to me. The Shark Tank was one of the best buildings to play in. We had a lot of great memories there.
I love them all. They treated me with great respect. I hope I did them proud when I played.
Thornton, on what he likes about this Leafs team:
I love their goalie. I really, really do. I like Freddy a lot. That was a big part of my decision here. I think he’s a great goalie.
Up the middle, they’re very, very strong.
Adding T.J. Brodie on the back-end really solidifies their D.
Zach Bogosian coming in, Wayne Simmonds.
The Auston Matthews, the Mitch Marners, the John Tavares, the Willy Nylanders…the list goes on and on, Zach Hyman. Morgan Rielly.
This is a really, really good team. I think it’s going to be a great team at the end of this.
Thornton, on talking to Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski, and others about leaving San Jose Sharks for a new team:
I had a lot of different conversations with a lot of different people. I wanted to talk to more than a handful of people about making a potential move. I really didn’t know until the last four or five days what I was going to do.
I talked to quite a few people. Listened to their advice. Patty, Pav, and a lot more.
They were really kind and really blunt on how their move was, the pros and cons, and great advice by the both of them.
Thornton, on what he’ll take away from his time with the San Jose Sharks:
The friendships I’ve accumulated over those years, they’ll be friendships forever. They’re long-lasting friendships.
Doug, with the staff he’s created out there, the equipment guys, the medical side, just some really strong bonds I’ve made. They truly made it a place to come to work everyday, made it enjoyable for myself.
It’s a special place to play hockey, that’s for sure.
Thornton, on if there was one conversation in particular with somebody who impacted his decision to leave:
I actually talked to Joe Montana. Joe gave me some good advice. He just talked about leaving San Francisco and going to Kansas City.
A couple people outside of hockey. I had so many people I talked to over the last week. I’m just blessed I had a chance to talk to some great people.
He’s one guy who offered me up some good advice.
Thornton, on culture change from San Jose to Toronto:
Oh, I’ll be fine with it. I don’t mind you [media] guys at all. I’ll be fine with it.
Thornton, on his junior days, if he remembers Kyle Dubas as a kid in Sault Ste. Marie:
I don’t know. (laughs) I don’t remember two weeks ago, to be honest with you. My memory is all kind of blurry.
But we go back a long way, long way..
I haven’t been up to the Sault in a few years. But it’s a special place up there.
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