Thornton explains why he refused Spezza's offer to take number 19
Veteran Toronto Maple Leafs forward Jason Spezza offered new teammate Joe Thornton his No. 19 after the team signed the 41-year-old this week, according to TSN Hockey Insider Pierre LeBrun.
Thornton declined the offer, but told LeBrun via text that it was a nice gesture.
``It really was,'' Thornton said. ``I couldn't do that to him. He really is a special guy.''
Spezza told LeBrun that he has "too much respect for him not to offer it."
Thornton will wear No. 97 next season, according to a tweet posted by the Maple Leafs Saturday night.
Spezza and Thornton are the two oldest players on the Maple Leafs.
The 37-year-old Spezza netted nine goals and 16 assists over 58 games in 2019-20 with the Leafs, his first season in Toronto and 17th in the NHL. The Toronto native signed a one-year contract worth $700,000 earlier this month.
Thornton, a first overall pick in 1997, is coming off his 22nd season in the NHL, scoring seven goals and adding 24 assists over 70 games with the San Jose Sharks. The Maple Leafs also signed him to a minimum contract of $700,000 for the 2020-21 season.