It was a word Rick Rypien used often on Saturday — grateful — and listening to the man, now a Winnipeg Jet, it seemed to come right from his soul.
Signed by the same organization that gave him his pro start after being undrafted following a solid career with the Regina Pats, Rypien has now come full circle: back to Winnipeg, back to a True North organization that has shown so much faith in him as he battled injuries and took two personal leaves of absence while with the Vancouver Canucks.
And back to a place where his skill set as a fireball/momentum changing forward was always most appreciated.
"Waking up (Friday) morning I didn’t know what was going to happen and I was very nervous," said Rypien of experiencing the first day of NHL free agency. "But now I’m probably more excited than I’ve ever been, just because I get to come back to where I started my professional career and get my feet back on the ground. It’s not only for me personally, but to speak to the city and everyone involved there. I want to help turn that team into a contender.
"It came down to the character those guys have and how much they believe in me and the opportunity they’ve given me and how much they’ve stuck by me and their loyalty.
"I just wanted to be loyal back to them. I’m truly excited and grateful."
Rypien, who appeared in 119 games with the Canucks since the 2005-06 season, said he had offers from a few clubs but opted to return to Winnipeg. He spoke with head coach Claude Noel, assistant GM Craig Heisinger and co-owner Mark Chipman Friday as the club rolled out the welcome mat for his return.
He is coming off a particularly tumultuous season — this after suffering through an assortment of hurts from 2005-09 — that included a suspension. Last October, Rypien pushed a linesman in a game against the Minnesota Wild at the XCel Energy Center and grabbed a fan heckling him as he walked down the tunnel. He was suspended for six games and fined. In November he was given a personal leave of absence by the Canucks and returned to action this March with the Moose before getting injured in the playoffs.
"Everyone that knows me, knows that everything that was happening didn’t reflect me as a person and it’s not like I was doing anything wrong," Rypien explained. "I went through a couple of things I had to deal with, I got over it — it took longer than I wanted. But just the interest people had in me and the belief people had in me... it means a lot to me. It makes me believe even more in myself. They see something in me as a person that maybe sometimes you don’t see yourself. They point that out and then you believe in yourself more and then hope you reach the potential they see and you see in yourself."
TOUGH AS GLASS: Here’s new Jet forward Tanner Glass’ rather honest assessment of his game: "I’m an up and down winger, I’m going to finish every check in front of me and try to create energy when I’m out there. I think some of my strengths are playing on the walls and grinding it out in the corner.
"You’re not going to see me doing any highlight reel dangles or one-on-one plays, but I’m going to come to the rink and work hard every night and hopefully impress the fans that way."