For several years now, it has seemed like Joe Thornton would be playing in the NHL forever. Now may be the first time the bearded veteran's future in the league truly seems unclear.
NHL.com reported Tuesday Thornton, 43, is practicing with HC Davos of the National League in Switzerland while he decides if he is going to return to the NHL for another season. Thornton became an unrestricted free agent over the summer at the conclusion of a one-year contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
One-year deals have been part of Jumbo Joe's M.O. in the past, including three such contracts while he was still a figurehead for the San Jose Sharks. But even after defying the laws of age in his most recent campaign, Toronto's early exit in this year's Stanley Cup playoffs has made even Thornton and his Zeus-like beard contemplate hanging up his skates.
Thornton owns the dubious honor of playing the second-most regular-season games without winning a Stanley Cup. (Former Sharks teammate Patrick Marleau holds the main honors with 1,779 games.) Even with the accolades he has accumulated over his 23-year career, Thornton has never been shy about his desire to play until he can hoist Lord Stanley's Cup.
The London, Ontario native is ranked 14th on the NHL's all-time scoring list with 1,529 points (425 goals, 1,104 assists) and sixth in games played with 1,680.