We've been hearing a lot about Joe Thornton's decision to join the Toronto Maple Leafs over the last couple of days and that should come as no surprise. Thornton is an iconic player in the league and his return home, to arguably the biggest media market in all of hockey, has understanbly created a ton of headlines and drawn a ton of interest from fans of both Thornton and the Leafs.
Thus far however we've been hearing nothing but positive stories about how happy teammates are to see Joe get a chance on a contending team or like earlier today stories about why Thornton chose the Leafs and why he's so happy to be making the move to Toronto. Not everyone though is thrilled about the fact that Joe is headed back North of the border however and near the top of that list may be one of his now former San Jose Sharks teammates. Recently Tomas Hertl, a veteran player in the National Hockey League in his own right, expressed his sadness upon hearing the news for the first time.
"He just told me he would miss me," admitted Hertl after speaking with Joe. "I was thanking him because he was such a great teammate to me. It's sad because we've been playing with him for so long. You feel like you'll always play with him."
In a move that shows what a class act he truly is, Thornton called his teammates prior to the announcement being made to let them know he had made the difficult decision. I can see why for a player like Hertl it would have been especially difficult given that I believe Thornton played a pivotal role in mentoring the young man. I don't think it's any coincidence that the Sharks debuted the talented Hertl on a line alongside Jumbo Joe, and I believe that plays a huge factor in why Hertl is particularly sensitive to the departure of his long time teammate.
I of course believe that Hertl holds no ill will towards his former teammate for the decision he made in free agency, but it's also perfectly reasonable for him to feel a sense of loss upon losing a mentor.