Breaking the Seal: Big Joe Thornton Heads to Europe, Like He Did Last Time

With all the news of elite Russians heading back to Russia – you know, Commies like Datsyuk, Kovalchuk, and Malkin – Canadians are battening down the hatches for a winter so cold and lifeless, you could call it Leningrad.

As if Joe Thornton didn’t notice.

The Sharks captain and reigning puck possession champion is heading to Europe, like he did in 2004 when he won some Swiss trophy with HC Davos and Martin St. Louis, and then won the Hart Trophy the year after, when the NHL finally returned. On Monday, Thornton announced he was heading back to Davos.

“Hopefully the lockout ends sooner rather than later,” he said, “but I have to go play.”

Fair enough. Joe is 33 years old now, which means a one-year lockout would thrust him into being a 35-year-old returning veteran.

Remember in The Shawshank Redemption, when Red leaves prison after being in their for, like, 40 years and he just can’t cope with the new world he’s been fast forwarded into, and he ends up hanging himself? That’s what happens to 35-year-old careers after a lockout.

Last time, in 2005, the NHL came back with anticipated excitement, but it was the older guys who died out. Ziggy Palffy, Brett Hull, Jeremy Roenick, Luc Robitaille, and Markus Naslund… they all became largely irrelevant as Ovechkin, Crosby, and Datsyuk decided to steal the show.

Thornton, too.

But, now, Joe has to keep his engine greased. He was to keep the car running, and work out the clutch every once in a while. It’s not unlike owning an old dirt bike, except the bike is Joe’s body and he’s the driver.

If the NHL locks out its players for a full season again, chances are folks like Thornton, the Sedin Twins, and even Datsyuk will notice their legs are slower and their minds are foggier when they return.

He’s right. He has to go play.

But, now that he’s broken the seal, will more Canadians follow?