Chris Thorburn isn’t sure what the future holds for him, which only adds to the emotion of playing what might have been his final game as a member of the Winnipeg Jets.
Thorburn, goalie Ondrej Pavelec and defenceman Paul Postma are the three pending unrestricted free agents on the active roster and there’s a good chance none of them will be back with the Jets in the fall.
Saturday marked the 750th game of his NHL career and franchise-record 709th with the Jets and Atlanta Thrashers and you could tell going out on a positive note meant a lot to him.
“It’s great to end (the season) with a win. I’m honoured (about 750) and I’m proud of it,” said Thorburn, who finished the season with three goals, four points and 95 penalty minutes in 64 games. “The ride has been great and I’m looking to continue it. I have a lot of good friendships and people I’ve met along the way.
“It’s hockey, right. It’s a business and you just don’t know what’s going to happen. I’ve always tried to live in the moment. It’s tough when the game is over. It all just hits you and you just know. We’ll see what happens and hopefully, there’s still some more years ahead of it.”
Although he didn’t come right out and say it, Thorburn realizes he may have worn that Jets jersey for the final time.
Once the Jets were eliminated from playoff contention, some observers wondered if Thorburn would be relegated to the press box as a healthy scratch since he doesn’t figure to be part of the future plans.
However, instead of making room for youngsters, Jets head coach Paul Maurice rewarded Thorburn by keeping him in the lineup.
“I thank him for it. It means a lot,” said Thorburn. “I don’t know what else to say.”
Why was it important for Maurice to continue to use the veteran enforcer?
“He’s been an outstanding man in the room,” Maurice said after the morning skate. “His game in this stretch, which means nothing in terms of standings, he’s done exactly what we’ve asked our hockey team to do. Take it on as a real day and that’s good leadership for those young players. He’s demanded in the room that we come and play hard.”
— Ken Wiebe