Thornton declined Spezza's offer to wear No. 19 with Leafs
Andre Ringuette / National Hockey League / Getty

Joe Thornton was given the opportunity to continue wearing his No. 19 jersey with the Toronto Maple Leafs, but he'll take a new number for the first time in nearly 20 years instead.

Jason Spezza, who wears No. 19 for Toronto, offered it to Thornton after the club signed the 41-year-old. But the former Shark declined, according to TSN's Pierre LeBrun.

Spezza said he respects Thornton so much that he had to offer the number. And while he certainly appreciated the gesture, Thornton didn't want to take it away from Spezza.

"I couldn't do that to him," Thornton said. "He really is a special guy."

Thornton will wear No. 97 with the Leafs, a number that he's sported in international play throughout his career. He's the first player in Leafs history to don the number.

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Thornton declined Spezza's offer to wear No. 19 with Leafs
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