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Hockey world prays Joe Thornton never celebrates four goals

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Joe Thornton says if he ever scored four goals, he'd really lay the lumber on the crowd. (Getty Images)

Joe Thornton's four-goal celebration comment set off the twittersphere

By Allan Muir

San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan sat rookie sensation Tomas Hertl after he scored his fourth goal against the Rangers on Tuesday night.

Let's all pray that McLellan does the same thing if Joe Thornton ever gets to three.

The Sharks' captain was on the outskirts of a media scrum in Vancouver on Thursday afternoon where, naturally, the conversation focused on his linemate's big game. The questioning began to take a negative turn, prompting Thornton to step in and defend the kid.

What happened next is courtesy Jason Botchford of the Vancouver Province:

Hearing a question to Marleau about Hertl and whether he was showboating, Thornton said:

“Shut up, have you ever played the game?”

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When the press turned his way, he then added:

“I’d have my [mighty sword] out if I scored four goals. I’d have my [Mr. Happy] out, stroking it.”

As far as celebrations go, that's one way to out-hotdog Theo Fleury's rinklong slide.

Look, Thornton probably got caught up in the moment and didn't expect to be quoted. Or maybe he decided to go full shock value with the belief that he couldn't be quoted. Either way, a guy with more than 1,100 games on his NHL resume has been around long enough to know that if you barge into a scrum and shout something out in front of a group of reporters, it's not going to stay in the room. Especially not something as magnificently off the wall as that.

Already, the debate is heating up whether Botchford crossed a line by putting the unexpurgated quote in print. (Yes, apparently you can run the C-word in family newspapers these days). This wasn't an off-the-record moment, so I tend to side with his position:

I also say good on Thornton. Although the whole "have you ever played the game" thing is pretty weak, so was the question that prompted it. And the guy was quick to defend a teammate, which is exactly what you want your captain to do. He'll probably hear from the league on this, but if he does, it was worth it.

UPDATE: The Good Times Gang over in San Jose have taken exception to Botchford's decision to run with the quote, according to David Pollack of the San Jose Mercury-News:

"I don't think it would be a surprise to anyone in the industry that 'locker room talk' exists," Sharks director of media relations Scott Emmert said in a prepared statement. "Professional reporters understand that concept and respect it."

Emmert called use of the quote "a pathetic attempt to generate some page hits and controversy by reporting an off-the-cuff and off-the-record comment made by someone who wasn't even being interviewed at the time."