Will Jumbo Joe Thornton become the latest long-suffering NHL veteran to win a Stanley Cup when all hope appeared to be lost?

Joe Thornton's beard

San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton has played 1566 NHL regular season games and never won the Stanley Cup. Photo by Mark6Mauno (flickr) [CC License]

He’s played 1566 NHL games and never won the Cup. In NHL history, only Thornton’s former Sharks teammate, Patrick Marleau of the Toronto Maple Leafs has skated in more NHL games (1657) without earning an inscription on Lord Stanley’s mug.

Thornton’s Been Close Before

Thornton, 39, and the San Jose Sharks are facing the St. Louis Blues in the Western Conference final. The last time these two teams met at this stage of the playoffs was in 2016, when the Sharks toppled the Blues in six games and Thornton made his first Cup final appearance.

There was to be no happy ending, though. The Pittsburgh Penguins downed the Sharks, also in six games, and won the Cup.

If San Jose were to complete the journey this journey, Thornton, who the Boston Bruins made the first overall pick of the 1997 NHL entry draft, would be the third player in NHL history to win his first Cup after playing over 1500 NHL games.

But he wouldn’t be the first long-suffering veteran to final grab hold of hockey’s Holy Grail.

John Bucyk, 1970 Boston Bruins

In his first season with the Bruins in 1957-58, Bucyk and Boston lost the Stanley Cup final to the Montreal Canadiens. The Bruins wouldn’t win another playoff series until the 1968-69 quarterfinals against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

They’d go all the way to the final in 1969-70. Bucyk scored a goal in all four games of the final series as Boston swept the the St. Louis Blues.

While Bobby Orr’s magical overtime goal gets all the glory,  it was Bucyk’s third-period tally that sent Game 4 to OT.

When NHL President Clarence Campbell doled out the Cup for Boston’s first Stanley Cup win since 1941, the first Bruin to hoist it aloft in 29 years was Bucyk.

Lanny McDonald, 1989 Calgary Flames

In what would be his his last NHL season, McDonald and the Flames faced the Canadiens in the 1988-89 Stanley Cup final. Calgary and McDonald were on the wrong end of a five-game final loss to the Habs in 1985-86, his only other previous final appearance.

Leading the Canadiens 3-2 and playing Game 6 at the Montreal Forum, McDonald came out of the penalty box and scored, giving Calgary a 2-1 advantage. The Flames would never trail again en route to a 4-2 victory.

Calgary co-captain McDonald accepted the Cup from NHL President John Ziegler in what remains the only championship in Flames history.

Raymond Bourque, 2001 Colorado Avalanche

Bourque had lost in Stanley Cup finals in 1987-88 and 1989-90 as a member of the Bruins. Late in his career and with Boston in a rebuilding situation, the Bruins dealt Bourque to the Colorado Avalanche in 2000. But the Avs lost to Dallas in the Western Conference final that spring.

Opting to play one more season, Bourque was rewarded. In the 2000-01 final against the defending champion New Jersey Devils, Colorado rallied from a 3-2 series deficit for a seven-game verdict.

Avalanche captain Joe Sakic accepted the Cup from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and immediately turned and handed it to a delighted Bourque.

Dave Andreychuk, 2004 Tampa Bay Lightning

Andreychuk would retire as the NHL’s all-time leader in power-play goals. He’d earn enshrinement into the Hockey Hall of Fame. But we’ll argue that this day was the most satisfying of his career.

When the Lightning took a hard-fought seven-game final series from the Flames in 2003-04, Andreychuk, an NHLer since 1982-83 and a 53-goal scorer for the Leafs in 1993-94, won the Cup in his first and only Stanley Cup final appearance.

As captain, he accepted Lord Stanley’s mug from Bettman, and remains the only Lightning captain to ever do so.