Joe Thornton's amazing on-ice vision, power and ability to serve teammates the perfect puck have made this Ontario native the NHL's premier assist man. The San Jose Sharks' 6'4", 223-pound center torched opponents for 96 assists during the '05-'06 season, and his 125 points won him the Art Ross Trophy, which is awarded to the league's top scorer. Below, the beast on blades takes us through his pregame.
What do you do to prepare yourself on game day?
Thornton: I like to go to the rink for practice. Then I eat some lunch usually chicken or pasta, because I like to eat protein and carbs in my pregame meals. Then, I go to sleep for about an hour and a half, wake up, watch a little TV, then head over to the rink.
Is it difficult for you to remain calm heading up to game time?
Thornton: I really don't have a problem with nerves because I'm a pretty laid back guy. Obviously, some good music can get me pumped. It could be anything from Nickelback to AC/DC to a little rap.
Do you have any superstitions?
Thornton: I don't have any rituals or anything. I just get dressed and head out. It's pretty simple.
Do you use visualization as a preparation technique?
Thornton: Yeah. The night before, I think about who we are playing, who I'll be facing and who they have in net. When game time rolls around, I'm ready.
Do you alter your approach depending on who you're facing?
Thornton: I don't like to change my approach that much. If it's a faster defenseman, I might change a thing here or there, but I don't necessarily change my game based on who I'm playing. I just enjoy playing and beating really good teams. No individual players get me excited or nervous, but I like playing against guys I know and have played with before on Canadian hockey teams.
Everyone knows hockey is a physical sport, but how much of it is your ability to stay focused?
Thornton: I truly believe that hockey is 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical. In order to be successful, you have to remain focused all the time. Sometimes you can lose that focus, especially if you lose your confidence. To refocus, you just have to remind yourself that you can play.
Can you describe what it's like as you take the ice and the lights are on you?
Thornton: Oh man, it's the best. I get chills as I come out of the Shark's mouth. All the fans start going crazy, and there's smoke blowing everywhere. That environment gets me really excited.
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