Jesse Boulerice didn't need a 25-game suspension to realize what he did to Ryan Kesler last season was wrong.
The moment his stick came up and made contact with the face of the Vancouver Canucks forward, Boulerice knew he had crossed the line.
From that moment, he was left wondering if his NHL career was over.
"I always try to play an honest game, make smart plays and not do anything cheap, hit anybody from behind or anything like that," Boulerice said. "Then all of a sudden in the middle of the battle it happened. It wasn't as though I said in my head I'm going to go cross-check this guy in the face.
"I went over to give him a shot and it kind of happened that way. It wasn't intentional."
Boulerice, who was with the Philadelphia Flyers at the time, was assessed the second-longest regular-season suspension for his cross-check on Kesler.
Since then, the 30-year-old winger out of Plattsburgh, N.Y., has been trying to make his way back to the league.
He'd been playing with the Lake Erie Monsters of the AHL this season, but the Edmonton Oilers claimed the six-foot-two, 215-pound winger off waivers on Tuesday from the Colorado Avalanche.
He was not in the lineup last night when the Oilers hosted the Toronto Maple Leafs.
"This is my 11th year pro, and the thought does come to mind after so many years and something like that happens," Boulerice said. "You definitely question whether you're going to get another chance to play.
"But I'm grateful for it, that's the way I look at it. This is an opportunity that I can't pass up and I'm definitely going to make the best of it."
Last year wasn't the first time Boulerice had been disciplined for an on-ice incident. While in junior as a member of the Plymouth Whalers, he was charged with assault for a stick-swinging incident against Guelph Storm forward Andrew Long.
He was a teammate of Oilers forward Erik Cole in Carolina. The two have known each other for over 18 years and are good friends. Boulerice comes highly recommended by Cole.
"I talked to Erik a little bit at the beginning of the year and the day I found out I was coming here," Boulerice said. "He just filled me in a little bit on the city and said I was going to love it here and that I was going to get a chance. He said I should be a good fit here in his opinion. My style is more suited towards the Western Conference and it's a shame I've been in the East all these years."
Boulerice will fill Steve MacIntyre's role on the club. The big bruiser was put on injured reserve after a broken bone in his face, courtesy of Pittsburgh tough guy Eric Godard. He's expected to be out eight to 12 weeks. When Boulerice became available, the Oilers scooped him up.
"I didn't even know I was on waivers," Boulerice said. "I went about my business, went on the ice, then when I got off the ice, I had just got undressed and was making a protein shake when the coach pulled me into the office and told me that I wasn't going to be with them anymore, but the good news was that I was picked up by the Oilers.
"I was totally caught off guard, totally shocked and pretty pumped to get another opportunity to get back in the league."
Boulerice skated with the Oilers for the first time yesterday and may see action tomorrow when the Oilers host the Colorado Avalanche.
"We all know the type of player he is," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish. "He's a decent skater and a tough customer. We like that heavyweight element.
"I think that (cross-check on Kesler) was an isolated incident," he added. "He must have snapped at the time. We don't want that out of him for sure. We want good, hard-nosed hockey. I think that's something he wants to put behind him and we're very comfortable leaving it there."