VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Aaron Rome was a popular player when he left the Vancouver Canucks and signed with the Dallas Stars last summer.
The defenseman returned as a franchise leader Friday.
As Rome walked down a hallway that became familiar during three seasons in Vancouver, he couldn't help but notice his name on the wall where the Canucks honor past team award winners. Atop each category, from all-stars and MVPs, to most exciting player and unsung hero, was a piece of white hockey tape with Rome’s full name scribbled across it.
Rome, who often made headlines in Vancouver for getting picked to play ahead of more established, higher-paid players, took it in stride.
"Nothing new," Rome said. "It's all good fun. Guys like to have fun here and I had a lot of fun in the three years I was here."
couldn't help but notice his name on the wall where the Canucks honor past team award winners. (Photo: Adam Kimelman/NHL.com)
Rome signed a three-year, $4.5-million contract with Dallas on July 1, but admitted the memories came flooding back on the way to the rink.
"I didn't think I would miss it that much, but we came in on the bus," he said, pausing. "We had a lot of fun in this city. We won two President's Trophies and had that long run to the [Stanley Cup] Final. It was a lot of fun, good memories, good group of guys, so it's always tough."
For Rome, the decision to leave as a free agent was made easier by the opportunity to play a bigger role with the Stars, something that would have been tougher on a Canucks team that lists Keith Ballard and his $4.2 million annual salary as a third-pairing defenseman.
"Part of me wanted to stay, but you get to that point in your career you want an opportunity to play and have a larger role," Rome said. "They have great players over there and I have a lot of respect for the guys over there. And I'm getting more of a chance to play here."
As for which former teammate temporarily elevated his stature on the Team Awards wall, Rome's first guess was Kevin Bieksa.
"But apparently it wasn't, so my second guess would probably be Lu," he said of goaltender Roberto Luongo. "We played a lot of ping pong and had a lot of battles on the ping pong table, so I got to know him pretty good -- he has a lot of fun in the locker room with the guys."
Apparently even when they're no longer in the same locker room.