CALGARY - He shook hands. He signed autographs. He chatted with familiar media faces.
With a greeting more fitting of a head of state than a 25-year-old defenceman, Dion Phaneuf returned to the Saddledome Thursday, wearing a smile on his face on the outside and nursing a heavy heart on the inside.
In a frantic 48 hour span, Phaneuf:
a) scored his first goal of the season in a 4-1 victory over the Oilers Tuesday in front of friends and family in Edmonton, his hometown.
b) left after the game for the airport to catch a 12:45 a.m. flight that would start his journey to PEI, where he attended his grandmother’s funeral in Summerside Wednesday.
c) Jumped on a plane after the service and came all the way back to Calgary, where he arrived late Wednesday.
b) came to the Saddledome Thursday for the Leafs morning skate and was greeted by at least 30 reporters and 10 cameras.
Welcome back, Dion.
“It’s a tough part of life,” Phaneuf said of the service. “(But) it was good to get down there to celebrate her life.
“I was glad to get the opportunity (to attend the funeral). I was glad to make it down there.”
Phaneuf showed no signs of fatigue has he zipped through the drills during the morning skate. Afterward, he once again wanted to put to rest the rumours suggesting Flames players had issues with him in the Calgary locker room.
“I think both sides have addressed this. Those things just weren’t true,” he said. “I enjoyed my time here, I had no problems with teammates and I made a lot of friends here.”
To that end, he and Flames captain Jarome Iginla briefly met earlier in the day. Iginla was the first person to call offering congratulations after Phaneuf was named captain of the Leafs back on June 14.
“It was nice to get the chance to talk to Iggy,” Phaneuf said of their morning meeting.
Phaneuf was asked if he saw photos or videos of practice Wednesday when teammate Kris Versteeg came out on the ice wearing a Dion Phaneuf mask.
“The guys were texting me about it,” Phaneuf laughed, adding that someone also emailed him a photo.
“Steeger likes to have fun. We have a fun group.”
Phaneuf, of course, is playing his first game back in Calgary Thursday night since being traded to the Leafs on Jan. 31 along with Keith Aulie and Fredrik Sjostrom for Matt Stajan, Ian White, Nik Hagman and Jamal Mayers.
J-S Giguere will start in goal for the Leafs Thursday . Coach Ron Wilson said he plans on leaning on Giguere over the next little while ... Flames coach Brent Sutter was informed that Wilson often brings up the fact that the Leafs are one of the youngest teams in the league. “Good for Ron,” Sutter quipped. “(Do we give) a standing ovation? We are only concerned about our team. It’s not like we have (files) on all the birthdays in the league.”