SUN Hockey Pool

Mighty Duck flies north

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:02 AM ET

Ask Dustin Penner what he's going to do with his Stanley Cup ring from Anaheim and he pauses, thinks about the controversial circumstances under which he left the Ducks last summer, and delivers a gem.

"I think one of the first things I'll do is go and get it appraised," he grinned.

"I have a feeling mine might be cubic zirconia."

Ducks GM Brian Burke isn't still steaming over losing his big winger to Kevin Lowe's five-year, $21.25 million offer sheet, is he?

Probably, but Penner should still expect the real deal when Burke hands out the jewelry.

And he should expect it to bring back a rush of memories.

"I'll probably just stare at it for a while," he said.

"When you win a Stanley Cup, you go through a lot of ups and downs. You build a really good camaraderie with your teammates. Winning a championship builds friends for life.

"I definitely have a lot of fond memories. You catch yourself, if you see clip of it on TV ... it hits you then.

"I think each year It'll probably sink in a little more as you realize how hard it is to win."

Leaving the town he won in and players he won with wasn't easy, but the Oilers made him an offer he couldn't refuse, and he heard through the grapevine that Edmonton is a great place to play.

"It was a hard decision,"said the six-foot-four, 243-pound winger. "It was tough leaving a championship team, and a lot of friends on and off the ice, but I'm here in a good situation in Edmonton and I'm looking forward to my time here.

"The organization and my teammates here made the adjustment really easy for me. From the top down, everyone from teammates to training staff, it's a family atmosphere.

"Every day the guys are asking 'Where are we going for lunch.' After the game it's 'Where are we going for dinner.' In every essence of the word it's team."

Playing on the same line as Ales Hemsky isn't bad, either.

"I've played with a lot of great players last year, but I've never played with anyone as dynamic as him," said Penner.

"Some of the moves he makes ... you just have to be there for support and be ready because eventually you're going to get the puck.

"And sometimes you feel like a spectator watching him out there, like 'Way to go, Hemmer, nice move.' "

Penner's arrival, along with Sheldon Souray, and Joni Pitkanen, transforms a team that didn't look like it had much hope into one that honestly believes it can make the playoffs.

"When you lose such a big part of the team like Jason Smith it can be tough, it can get guys down a little bit," said veteran Marty Reasoner. "But when you fill it with big name guys like that it makes you feel pretty confident about the direction the organization wants to go."

So here he is, his head still spinning from the championship, the stunning new contract and everything else that's happened to him over the last 18 months.

"I would have never guessed four or five years ago that I'd be where I am today," said Penner, who was cut from his tier II junior team, redshirted his first year in college, didn't get picked by any NHL team in his draft year and managed all of 28 points his first year in the AHL.

"There were some times where those doubts (about ever making it) creep into your head, but it's overshadowed by how much you love the game. It's different for every person. Some people love the game more than others. For me, it's all I knew how to do, it's all I wanted to do. It was going to be pretty tough to tell me no."

And now that he's made it, believe him when he tells you how sweet it all is.

"It makes everything worth it," he said. "I definitely took a different route, but I'm happy with the route I took. It made me the person I am today - more grounded.

"If you're drafted in the first round in every draft, it's more taxing when you do deal with rejection or a bump in the road. I hit bumps early on and learned how to deal with it."


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