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Veteran forward Sullivan re-signed by Gwinnett

File Photo
 Gwinnett Gladiators’ veteran forward Dan Sullivan (28) was re-signed by the ECHL team. The announcement was made Monday. 

File Photo Gwinnett Gladiators’ veteran forward Dan Sullivan (28) was re-signed by the ECHL team. The announcement was made Monday. 

Last summer, Dan Sullivan was as well-conditioned as he had ever been and excited about a second season with the Gwinnett Gladiators.

Then the fan-favorite and veteran enforcer had a “setback” — to use his own word — in a preseason game against Florida.

Sullivan pushed a linesman during an altercation and was given a four-game suspension. Head coach Jeff Pyle was forced to release him and didn’t have room on the roster until several weeks into the season.

Sullivan waited it out, understanding it was a situation of his own making, and came back stronger. He had 33 points in 50 games and is now set to come back for another season. The Gladiators announced his re-signing Monday.

“It was difficult to swallow, but those are things that Jeff can’t have,” Sullivan said. “Those are things that are unacceptable. But the fact that Jeff kept his word, got me back and I ended up having pretty successful time, was tremendous on his part.

“He did keep his word. Then it was my turn to step and show that it was worth it.”

Pyle is pleased with Sullivan’s effort and looking forward to seeing what the 6-foot-2, 225-pound winger can do now that he’s in top form.

“He’s gotten better every year,” Pyle said. “He’s in good shape. He’s gotten his shoulder fixed. And he does have a big heart. I’d like to see now with his shoulder surgery healed, his (repaired) knee’s now had two years, it’s going to be interesting.

“He’s earned it. He’s sacrificed a lot to be here.”

Sullivan went under the knife soon after the 2009-10 season ended and had years of accumulated damage in his shoulder fixed. It did limit his training early in the offseason, but the Toronto native is fully healed now and pushing his fitness to another level with the help of Eric Johnson, a seven-year NFL veteran, at WPI here in Gwinnett.

“My strength is like no other right now,” Sullivan said. “I’m just trying to give it one last crack.”

Sullivan has a spot in an American Hockey League camp set up, with his hometown Marlies, but he’s looking at it primarily as a training tool.

“The coach told me there’s really no shot to make the team because of my age and contract,” Sullivan said. “But I wanted to go to help me get ready for Gladiators camp.

“I’m not really expecting anything other than a full season — well, I want to win. There was a little disappointment when we didn’t make the playoffs last year.”

The Gladiators missed the postseason for the first time in their seven-year history and it didn’t sit well with anyone.

Pyle set about signing guys he felt would buy into his systems and Sullivan is determined to carry the message to all the younger players coming in this fall.

“Honestly I just want to be a positive reinforcement, not a negative,” Sullivan said. “I want to be part of the solution.

“If that means making sure we have the best third line in the league, I just don’t care where I am. If we all win together, it doesn’t matter how we got there.”

Pyle also went after gritty, tough players who are willing to drop the gloves. Which is what Sullivan has always brought to the table and he’s prepared to take a leadership role.

“It’s awesome just to know if you’re doing the right things and buying in, it’s really easy to play here,” Sullivan said. “Me being 29 now, I’m seeing all the things that didn’t matter before. What matters is being part of something down the line.

“Some guys are smarter than others. It took me a long time to get it, but I became more of a complete player. It gave me my second shot at the American League and I get to start off with clean slate.”