EDMONTON -- Kyle Wellwood laughs when he recalls the nicknames he was labelled with not so long ago during his, ah, chunkier days.
Like Kyle Wellfed.
Or Pork Chop.
There were so many, he can't remember them all.
"Personally, I liked the Wellwood sign somebody had," the former Maple Leaf recalled yesterday from Vancouver. "The 'W' in my name was the upside down golden arches of McDonalds.
"I think that kind of stuff is funny."
Here's something else that is funny: He recently was approached to write a book.
No, it won't be called How To Skate When You Are A Fat Tub of Goo.
"Actually, they want me to do a diet book now," he said, chuckling. "Everyone is talking about the new Wellwood diet."
A diet book? Wellwood? Who would have figured that would ever happen at the start of the season when Wellwood was the butt of so many fat jokes from Vancouverites?
Such has been the wild roller coaster ride Kyle Wellwood has been on the past few months.
When Wellwood faces his former Maple Leafs teammates tomorrow at GM Place, he will start the game as the Canucks' leading goal-scorer with six. It truly is an amazing feat, considering his NHL career in question just a few weeks ago.
The Wellwood saga started during the off-season, just after he cracked a bone in his right foot while playing indoor soccer.
He was sitting poolside at his Windsor-area condo one sun-splashed June day, his foot in a cast and his flabby gut hanging out, when a photographer, standing outside the fence that surrounded the courtyard, held his camera over the railing and clicked a photo.
With that, the Legend of Kyle Wellfed officially started.
"The next day, that picture was in the local paper, in Toronto papers, everywhere," he said.
Three months later, that same photo gained prominence again.
Cast adrift by the Maple Leafs, Wellwood arrived at Vancouver Canucks training camp looking to earn a roster spot. Instead, he was ripped publicly by coach Alain Vigneault for being out of shape.
Suddenly the poolside photo re-emerged. In Vancouver papers. On the internet.
Cue the ridicule.
During one game, a fan held up a sign that said: "Kyle Wellwood doesn't have to worry about the clock striking midnight because he is already a pumpkin." Ouch.
"The funny part is, a year earlier in Toronto, they said I was too skinny when I reported to camp," Wellwood said.
Not this time.
After playing just one regular-season game, the Canucks put Wellwood on waivers. He looked at playing in Russia. Or Europe.
If not for injuries to forwards Pavol Demitra and Rick Rypien, he might be chomping on wiener schnitzel with the Munich Munchers as we speak.
Instead, the Canucks recalled him. Less than a week after being left in limbo, he was back in the lineup.
The turnabout has been remarkable.
Having continued to rehab and work out through the entire process, Wellwood trimmed off the excess fat and has regained the quickness he showed flashes of during his time with the Leafs.
No longer do they mock his name at GM Place.
Now they chant it.
"When you've been on waivers and no one picks you up, you wonder: 'If no one wants me, where is my career headed?' " Wellwood said. "That's why I am so grateful for this second chance. I plan to make the most of it.
"I've always been on the fringe of the NHL. I was a late-round pick. I had to grind my way under Pat Quinn. So right now I'm on my best behaviour. And my body is where I want it to be."
Wellwood still talks with former teammates such as Matt Stajan and Carlo Colaiacovo. He is in a fantasy football league with Alex Steen. No wonder he is "excited" at facing them tomorrow.
As an added bonus, Wellwood likely will find himself on a line with the skilled Demitra, who could return to the lineup.
From being ridiculed to being a cult hero. For Kyle Wellfed, it has been a whirlwind transformation.
Diet book, anyone?