Paul Ranger’s last day at work as an NHL defenceman was on Oct. 22nd 2009 when he was employed by the Tampa Bay Lighting. Two days later he left the office citing personal reasons.

He never returned and remained out of hockey for three years.

Wednesday was his first day back at his old job in the NHL — this after a successful return to hockey with the Toronto Marlies in the AHL last year.

He was so happy to be back at work that he cried which is just one reason he’s the most intriguing even mysterious figure on the Toronto Maple Leafs deep roster of potential NHL defenders.

Leafs general manager Dave Nonis was touting him as a potential fixture among his club’s top four defencemen. It may have been a tribute to the 28-year-old’s skills (he turns 29 Thursday) while also serving as a reminder to Cody Franson — absent from camp in a contract dispute — that the club has options.

Either way it’s another huge step on a remarkable journey for Ranger.

That the journey from where he was to where he is now was an arduous even torturous thing seems self-evident. The first day of training camp is a happy time and full of promise for anyone generally. For Ranger it’s a life-changer and a sign of a life changed.

“It means everything” he said the tears welling up and spilling over the corner of his eyes serving testament. “This is huge and I know it. It’s a big part of my life. All I can say is I’m really excited for it. I’m emotional about it because it means so much. I know that I have greatness within me and I’m going to prove it.

“It’s a new setting; a new journey … I’m pumped for it.”

As for what happened in the intervening three years Ranger politely refuses to address it or any of the circumstances even tangential to it.

“That’s off limits for me” he said. “I’m not really going to talk about it at this point. I did a lot of things for myself; I just needed my own time.”