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The Last Centennial hangs up his skates

'Thank you to everyone who supported me, believed in me, and influenced me throughout my hockey career'
20190612 thorburn with cup
File photo.

The last North Bay Centennials player to play in the National Hockey League is officially hanging up the blades after literally finishing on top. 

His career started in 2006 when he was set up for his first NHL goal by Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, and finished in 2019 when he hoisted the Stanley Cup with the St. Louis Blues. 

Chris Thorburn, a veteran NHL forward known for his physical presence, announced his retirement Monday.

Thorburn, a six-foot-three, 235-pound native of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., had 53 goals, 81 assists and 968 penalty minutes over 801 regular-season NHL games with Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Atlanta/Winnipeg and St. Louis.

Thorburn was drafted 50th overall by the Buffalo Sabres in the second round of the 2001 NHL Draft. He made his NHL debut Dec. 2, 2005 with the Sabres and two days later picked up his first point in the league with an assist in a victory over the Colorado Avalanche.

Prior to the start of the 2006-07 season he was claimed off waivers by the Penguins, and scored his first NHL goal with Pittsburgh on Nov. 6, 2006.

Thorburn was traded to Atlanta on June 22, 2007 and became an everyday player with the Thrashers, suiting up for 73 games in 2007-08.

He played in all 82 games in 2008-09 when he ranked second on the team in hits (127).

In 2010-11, he led team forwards in blocked shots (71) and ranked third among Atlanta skaters in hits (129).

After the team moved to Winnipeg in 2011, Thorburn established himself as a respected voice in the Jets' dressing room and a contributing member of the community.

Thorburn played in a total of 10 NHL seasons with the Thrashers/Jets, and he remains the franchise leader in penalty minutes (832), while ranking fourth in games played (709).

Thorburn signed a two-year contract with the St. Louis Blues as a free agent in 2017. While he appeared in just one regular-season game in the Blues' 2018-19 championship season, he was the fourth player handed the Stanley Cup as a testament to his status as a well-respected teammate.

"Thank you to everyone who supported me, believed in me, and influenced me throughout my hockey career," Thorburn said in a statement. "The Buffalo Sabres, Pittsburgh Penguins, Winnipeg Jets and St. Louis Blues all took a chance on me and for that I am forever grateful.

"To finish my hockey career with the St. Louis Blues and finally get an opportunity to lift the Stanley Cup over my head, I could not have scripted a better way to go out. Thank you to Doug Armstrong and Tom Stillman, as well as Craig Berube, the coaching staff and the training staff. Most importantly, thank you to my Blues teammates for taking me on a journey of a lifetime."

See related: Former Centennials get first taste of the NHL 

See related: Thrashers practice in Hockeyville

See related: The Last Centennial hoists the cup 

Thorburn, drafted in the first round of the OHL Priority by the Centennials sixth overall by the Cents back in 1999.  He spent three seasons with the Centennials netting an OHL career-high 22 goals with the Trainmen in 00-01.  

Thorburn had a special return to North Bay on September 17, 2007 when he was with the Atlanta Thrashers as they took on the New York Islanders in the Hockeyville game at Memorial Gardens.  

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 22, 2020.

Chris Dawson

About the Author: Chris Dawson

Chris Dawson has been with since 2004. He has provided up-to-the-minute sports coverage and has become a key member of the BayToday news team.
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