Thornton feels weight of hockey hopes

Sharks forward: 'How much do (33 million) people weigh?'

By LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency


Sharks Joe Thornton (right), a key member of the Canadian Olympic hockey team, rubs out Leafs defenceman Francois Beauchemin at the ACC on Monday. (Jack Boland, QMI Agency)

Joe Thornton spoke from personal experience when asked what kind of pressure he and Team Canada would be under in Vancouver starting next week.

“How much do (33 million) people weigh?,” Thornton joked on Monday at the Air Canada Centre, with the start of the Olymoic hockey tournament just a few days away for himself and San Jose Sharks’ teammates Patrick Marleau, Dany Heatley and Dan Boyle.

Thornton’s linemates Marleau and Heatley are seen as Canada’s offensive hammer, certainly its lowest maintenance trio having spent almost 60 games together this season with more than 200 combined points.

“For me, being a passer, it’s easy with two of the most elite goal scorers in the league on your line,” Thornton said before his team took on the Maple Leafs. ”We’d like to go in there (Vancouver) playing well together and hopefully, we stay together.

“We’ve talked a lot about it - we have eight Olympians on our team, with Russians, Swedes, Americans - so we’re getting excited.”

Thornton was part of the Canadian entry that finished a disappointing seventh in Turin, Italy, four years ago. But some on the club such as Scott Niedermayer of the Anaheim Ducks date back to the 2002 gold in Salt Lake City.

Heatley says the Sharks line should benefit from the games being played on the smaller North American ice in Vancouver which eliminates any worries of ajustment, but on the other hand, most of the world’s best are already in the NHL and will have little worry in that regard, either.

Defenceman Boyle couldn’t miss all the Olympic team TV ads on local stations during Sunday’s Super Bowl, after the Sharks arrived in Toronto from a win in Nashville.

“We’re signing Canadian jerseys everywhere we go and people are excited,” Boyle said. “But our families are more into it now than we are. We’re professionals and we have three or four games left. We want to (win the Cup). We’re taking nothing for granted.”

Toronto coach Ron Wilson insisted he was not treating Monday’s game as a bonus scouting opportunity as he prepares to lead Team USA in Vancouver and play the Canadians in a Pool game on Feb. 21.

“I know two of those players (Thornton and Marleau) better than anyone in this room ,” Wilson bragged of his ex-Sharks. “(Team USA centre) Joe Pavelski will be on my side, he knows them intimately well and he’s the best faceoff guy on our (American) team.

“You have to go out on the ice and play and at the end of the day, we have great goaltending (Ryan Miller). A tournament like this is all about goaltending, it’s as simple as that.”

lance.hornby@sunmedia.ca

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