BOSTON -- Joe Thornton admitted that he was, indeed, rooting for the Black and Gold during last years Stanley Cup Finals.
But it seems that it had more to do with a fiery enmity toward the biting, flopping Vancouver Canucks, who eliminated his Sharks from the playoffs, than it did his Bruins heart strings tugging at him.
I was actually cheering for them in the Final, said Thornton of the Bs raising the Cup. After losing against Chicago in 2009-10 and then seeing Chicago win the Cup that season, it would have been hard to see Vancouver do that, too. I was cheering for the Bruins and I still have a lot of friends over there so I was happy for them.
Thornton was happy for the city of Boston, happy for the Bruins training staff that helped raise the hockey prodigy when he was in Boston as an 18-year-old rookie, and happy for Milan Lucic, whom he befriended during the 2008 NHL All-Star weekend. Its pretty clear Lucic has held Jumbo Joe in pretty high regard since that first encounter with the 6-foot-4 former No. 1 overall pick, and he was looking forward to their rare on-ice encounter when East meets West this time at TD Garden.
It seems like just yesterday I was a little kid watching Joe break into the league as a rookie, and so its a little bit of a thrill every time you line up against him, said Lucic. Obviously hes a big, strong center, and once you go after him hell fire off one of those great saucer passes to make you pay for it. Its always a challenge to play a great player like that.
It was a little conspicuous that Jumbo Joe didnt reach out to former Bruins teammates Tim Thomas and Patrice Bergeron after Boston won the Cup. But Thornton said he was looking forward to seeking out No. 30 and No. 37 on the ice Saturday before the game to give his hearty congratulations.
Its clear Thornton, who played in his 1,000th NHL game in Friday nights shootout win over the New Jersey Devils, has moved on. and there wasnt much sentimentality left for a stint in Boston he termed a long time ago now.
They havent had a Cup here in so long, so it was overdue, said Thornton. Its such a good sports town. It was nice to see the Bruins win one with the Celtics, Patriots and Red Sox all winning in the past. It was for them to get theirs.
Thornton also assured the what if question never even entered his head.
Its so long ago, it feels like to me, said Thornton. Youre so consumed about what youve got to do in San Jose. There are no what ifs now.
It seems like there are no what-if questions being asked on either side these days whether its Thornton or Boston, and tonight its about the hockey and the need for a win more than any walks down memory lane.