Curtis Pashelka of the San Jose Mercury News reported that ESPN broke a story about Joe Thornton staying home from the Team Canada Olympic orientation camp Monday, August 26. The captain of the San Jose Sharks has elected to stay home to be with his two-year old son River, now back home after an illness hospitalized him.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it is not. As competitive as making that team will be, he needs every bit of an edge he can get to make the roster. His absence might well prove the difference between winning a gold medal and not participating, and that is quite a sacrifice to be with a sick child unless there is a life-threatening element to the illness.
Since River is out of the hospital, we can all hope that is no longer a concern. If it was at one point, it is understandable that his father would not want to leave his side.
What everyone hopes is that he was never in that danger in the first place. In that case, his sacrifice would reflect even better on his dedication to his family.
Aside from the obvious best wishes to River and the entire Thornton family, Logan Couture talked about missing his San Jose teammate at orientation camp and looking forward to catching up with him next week. Dan Boyle supported his captain, too:
Our wives are best friends. He made the right decision, you (have) got to stay home. Family is the most important thing.
The last sentence is frequently uttered, but it is dedication to the game that is celebrated.
Is it possible Thornton's priorities have something to do with not winning a Stanley Cup? If he put the game first instead of his family, would he be that little bit better?
The haughty and hyper-competitive, killer attitude Tiger Woods displayed when he was winning majors was glorified while he was ignoring his family. Those are the values society rewards.
Yet there is some fundamental good in the human heart, because teammates that see a player's character up close want character in their leaders. Michael Irvin had the the competitive edge with the Dallas Cowboys to make the play necessary even through adversity, but the team's leaders were Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith.
Still, having the admiration of Team Canada is not going to land him a spot on the roster. They have dozens of character guys on and off the ice. Now he will have to outplay the 13-best forwards to come out of orientation camp, and can only be out-played by 12 Canadian forwards during the 2013-14 NHL season.
The list shows five reasons to hope Thornton can do that, for the sake of not only Team Canada but hockey around the world.