McGrattan makes his mark
Flames heavyweight has Gordie Howe hat trick against Vancouver
Brian McGrattan wasted little time Friday.
In his first appearance on home ice as a Calgary Flame, the resident heavyweight registered the proverbial Gordie Howe hat trick -- a goal, an assist and a fight. McGrattan, signed as a free agent over the summer, had all that completed with a little more than 27 minutes still remaining in the game.
The night began when McGrattan went looking for a dance partner the moment he stepped on the ice against the Vancouver Canucks. He found the willing combatant in Darcy Hordicuk. The Canucks winger might not be as willing next time around as McGrattan buckled Hordichuk with a whopping right hand to end the bout. He then collected an assist in the second period when linemate Dustin Boyd tipped in his shot from the slot. A few minutes later Boyd fed a pass across the crease and a streaking, yes, streaking, McGrattan who wristed the Flames fifth goal past a rather shell-shocked Roberto Luongo in the Canucks net.
"I was saying to Connie (Craig Conroy) before the game that it had been 91 games since I scored and it was about time to get one," said McGrattan, named the third star of the game for his efforts.
The last time he had found the back of the net was April 3, 2006 versus Atlanta.
McGrattan had played just four games since last spring after injuring his shoulder. This was just his third game in a Flames uniform and, after not being able to get any Chicago or Columbus players to drop the mitts in his first two games, he was like a tiger coming out of the cage.
Much to the delight of Flames fans, who love their heavyweights. And on this night they got double for their money because, while McGrattan and Hordichuk were exchanging blows in front of the Canucks bench, Flame Brandon Prust was tangling across the ice with Tanner Glass.
"I was out on the ice for about two seconds and I saw Prusty going and I turned around and Grats was going," said Boyd.
Not that the duo bout was planned although Prust and McGrattan had talked prior to the game.
"We had said we wanted to get some excitement going," said McGrattan.
McGrattan, a six-foot-four, 235-pounder, has made no secret about what his job is this season. He wants to rule the Northwest Division. He wants to have more fighting majors than any other player in the National Hockey League. He doesn't want Jarome Iginla to have to fight. "Nobody is going to mess with those guys," he says with authority.
"I like what I do," said McGrattan, who makes no bones about a fight turning momentum and keeping skill players from being abused by opponents. "There are a lot of guys in the league that do what I do but not all of them like doing it. I like doing it. I am here for whatever the team needs me for. Whenever my number is called, I will be ready."
The 28-year-old had a tough season last year. He played in just five games in part because of injury and in part because he voluntarily entered himself in the NHL's substance abuse program because of a drinking problem. What better way to get back into the action than to have three points in three games with your new squad? We're not going to tag him Gratsky or anything outrageous but considering he had 10 points in 147 previous games, we'd say that's a pretty darn good way to make an impression on his new teammates and the hometown fans.
Excited, refreshed and ready McGrattan was anxious to get back into action during training camp but doctors recommended more time and rehab for his shoulder, which required surgery after another heavyweight, Georges Laraque, fell on him during a fight last season. He was cleared to play on October 7 but was not inserted into the Flames line-up until last Monday when the Flames played in Chicago. He didn't fight that game but got on the gamesheet with an assist.
"You've got to be smart about it," said McGrattan, who now has 314 penalty minutes in 151 NHL games. "You can't run around and chase all night because you get out of position and get scored on."
With the shoulder cleared medically, all McGrattan needed was a fight to truly test it. He found that test Friday. And passed. "It's given me time to recover physically and mentally from the injury," said McGrattan, of the extra healing time. "It's not even in the back of my mind."
The funny thing about McGrattan is that he wasn't always a fighter. Sure, he had some dust-ups in the Ontario Hockey League as a junior but it wasn't until he was in the American Hockey League, with the Ottawa Senators organization that he began honing the rougher edge of his game.
"I wasn't always a fighter. I was in the he minors and needed to impress the coaches and that was what they wanted. I didn't win a lot either. I've licked up my share of bluelines," he smiled.
Not this time, though. McGrattan's first battle as a Flame was a victory. Sure, he took a couple of solid punches from a worthy combatant but in the end the only one hitting the blueline was Hordichuk. To his credit Hordichuk challenged McGrattan to a rematch in the second period. McGrattan declined because he required tape to close a couple of cuts on his hand from the first fight.
"I think if you fight and you cut a guy with tape on your hands you get suspended. I don't turn down too many but it just wasn't the right time," said McGrattan.
Scoring? Hey, that's just a bonus.
Asked what he gets more enjoyment out of, scoring a goal or winning a fight, McGrattan just smiles and you know the answer before it comes out of his mouth.
"Winning a fight."