As voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association, the San Jose chapter of the PHWA has named Joe Thornton as a nominee for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy. The nominees are selected by the PHWA chapters in each NHL city.
This award is given to the player who “best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.” The trophy is so named to honor former Minnesota North Stars player Bill Masterton, who died on January 15, 1968 after sustaining an injury during a game. A $2,500 grant is made by the PHWA to the Bill Masterton Scholarship Fund, based in Bloomington, Minnesota, on the winner’s behalf each year.
Joe Thornton has often been heralded as a near-perfect embodiment of the best the game has to offer. After playing through the first round f playoffs last year with a torn ACL and MCL, he spent the summer rehabbing his knee to return to the Sharks on a one-year contract — one he waited on to negotiate, to allow the Sharks the option of keeping both Patrick Marleau and himself.
He made his return to the ice before he was 100 percent healthy, but still had an impact. In 47 games to start the season, Thornton ranked second on the team in points (36) and penalty minutes (38), third in assists (23), and tied for second in goals (13). He handled the big minutes, averaging 18:20 in ice time, second only to his linemate, Joe Pavelski.
Unfortunately, he hasn’t return to the ice since game 47. Thornton was injured again, this time injuring his other knee, ending his season short.
He recently started skating again, so it’s possible that Jumbo Joe will make his return for playoffs.
Since Thornton was traded to the Sharks during the 2005-06 season, he has become a franchise leader, topping the all-time list in assists (745) and plus-minus (+172), and ranks second in games played (961) and points (973). Only Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby have scored more points since Joe Thornton became a Shark.
In 1493 career games, he has totaled 397 goals and 1030 assists, good for 12th on the NHL’s all-time assist list (second among active players) and 16th on the NHL’s all-time points list (1427). Among his accolades, Thornton won both the Art Ross Trophy and Hart Memorial Trophy during the 2005-06 season and is a six-time all-star (2002, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2008, 2009). He’s represented Team Canada, including winning an Olympic gold medal in 2010, two World Cups, one IIHF Worlds silver, and a gold medal at the 1997 World Juniors Championship. The 38-year-old was drafted first overall during the 1997 NHL Draft by the Boston Bruins.
The last San Jose Sharks player to win the Masterton was Tony Granato in the 1996-97 season, after he was able to score 25 goals, bouncing back from a severe brain injury sustained in the season prior.