The fact he spent most of last season in the NHL's substance abuse program instead of patrolling the ice worried Brian McGrattan a bit when he was searching for a new contract.
Those fears were laid to rest quickly with a phone call from the Calgary Flames and a meeting with new head coach Brent Sutter.
"I knew teams would have questions about it, but everything's been positive," McGrattan said yesterday from his off-season home in Hamilton. "I came in Wednesday and met with Brent on Thursday, and basically, he told me to come and work hard. I like that. They seem like straight shooters."
The Flames inked the 6-foot-4, 235-lb. enforcer to a one-year, one-way deal yesterday.
Last season, he played only five games for the Phoenix Coyotes. He said the decision to enter the rehabilitation program was the best choice he's ever made.
"My life's better than it's ever been," said McGrattan, who has been told to be tight-lipped about the circumstances.
"The last eight months has been really special for me. I've really learned to appreciate how great life is on the other side of hockey, and the hockey stuff has got better.
"My family have noticed a big difference, all the people around me, and to have the support through that has been great. I've seen the changes now."
Originally drafted by Los Angeles in the fourth round, 104th overall, in 1999, McGrattan spent three seasons in Ottawa before being traded to Phoenix last summer.
He's collected two goals, 10 points and 309 minutes in penalties in 148 career NHL games.
This summer, McGrattan also dealt with a nagging shoulder injury that affected him the last year and a half.
A bone in the socket broke off after he hit the ice in a fight with Georges Laraque, causing his shoulder to dislocate.
It's healed now, and he's ready to resume his role as one of the NHL's toughest policemen.
"With a fresh and healthy shoulder, I don't think too many guys are going to contend with me," he said. "With that, guys like (Jay) Bouwmeester and (Jarome) Iginla can play how they want and not worry about anybody."