Talk about hiring the perfect person for the job.
The Calgary Flames got it right on Thursday, announcing they have added Brian McGrattan to their Player Development staff. It is a player assistance role that will report to Ray Edwards, Director of Player Development.
"Stress of pro hockey is not easy for a young guy coming in," says McGrattan. "I have a wealth of knowledge. Fifteen years of pro experience, I've experienced everything you can experience in this game -- good, bad. I'm looking forward to being a good bridge for the players to talk to.
"You get guys coming out of junior, coming out of college, stress of trying to make a team, training camp, pressing management to get your first call-up. Pro hockey is a lot more physical, a lot more games. It's going to be a lot of fun working with some of these young players."
McGrattan was last spotted in the NHL in 2014-15. It was his third and final season with the Calgary Flames, who assigned him to Adirondack in the American Hockey League on Jan. 10, 2015. He would never play another NHL game.
McGrattan returned to the AHL the following season with San Diego, Anaheim's minor league affiliate. Last year, he took his family and crossed the Atlantic to play in the United Kingdom. Suiting up for Nottingham of the EIHL, he had 19 points (12 goals, 7 assists) in 47 games while piling up 138 penalty minutes.
Switching Work Places
"For any guy that steps away, it was a tough decision, but it was a decision that I was ready for," McGrattan says, reflecting on his decision to retire. "I have a young family at home, I have a 2-year-old. I'm 36 and I haven't exactly lived the easiest almost 20 years.
"A lot of physicality, a lot of fighting. The main decision was it was time to let my body rest and put my main focus on my family and I'm very happy and fortunate that a position has opened up for me to re-join an NHL team and I'm ready for that next step."
Brad Treliving agrees the time is right for this next step and he says McGrattan has a lot to give in this role.
"I've known Brian for a long time and this is something we've talked about for a while," says the Flames GM. "Brian has unique experience. He's a player that's played at every level and made it here the hard way. It's well documented the challenges that Brian has dealt with in his life."
With McGrattan, you're getting the genuine article. This isn't an expert trained in the field, he's a guy wise in his ways from having literally been there, done that.
Been There, Done That
"He brought up an interesting line," Treliving says. "If you want to secure your house, hire a former thief. Well, he knows all the tricks. He said to me, I've been down this path, I know the challenges, I know what they go for and I really think I can help, and I do too."
His ability to relate as a hockey player not far removed from playing the game will make him a great option, especially for young men just turning professional.
"It's hard to go to the manager or the coach," admits Treliving. "It's authentic with him. This is somebody that players can talk to. He's been there, he's been in their shoes."
Micheal Ferland, who called the hire "awesome", had to go through a similar battle with sobriety. He says he was grateful for having McGrattan around.
"You know what he's been through, what you've been through. He's had dark days and he's someone you can talk to," Ferland says. "There are some similarities in all the stuff that we've been through. There's always something that bothers someone. To get stuff off your chest, it's easier to talk to guys that have been through it."
He hopes himself, McGrattan, and Emile Poirier -- McGrattan's latest success story -- can all be resources for teammates to tap into.
"You never know what other guys are battling with, personal issues, etc." says Ferland. "I think it helps having guys like me, Grats, and now Emile, in an organization. These are guys that you can come and talk to."
Progressive Hire by the Flames
A fourth round draft pick by the Los Angeles Kings in 1999, McGrattan says he wished he had these types of resources available to him back then.
"The Calgary Flames are going to be at the forefront and are leaders in this position as an organization," McGrattan says. "It's a role that I wish was there and hundreds of players had wished was there back in the day.
"For (Calgary) to take charge and put a guy in a position that's there to work with young players and to be an outlet for players, it's a pretty special thing."
As the speed in the NHL picks up and the number of fights comes down, McGrattan's on-ice role as an enforcer -- a role he performed for his entire career -- is one that is quickly becoming endangered.
One can only hope his new off-ice role with the Flames, one with a far greater responsibility, is a role that will only continue to grow.
Good on you, Calgary Flames, for the progressive hire.
Not sure in 2004-05 when McGrattan piled up 551 penalty minutes with Binghamton (AHL) that anyone would have said this, but the league is a better and safer place with McGrattan involved.
Changing times and in a good way.
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Recent Flames Reading:
- Training Camp Primer: Run-Down of Who's Who Including 10 Players to Watch - There are 68 players coming to Flames camp, which is a lot. To help you figure out who's who, I've put together a comprehensive primer to serve as your training camp aid. (September 14, 2017)
- Penticton 2017: Flames 1, Jets 4 - It was an awful game but there was still enough fodder contained within for me to recap -- for better or worse -- some weekend talking points. I also get pretty aggressive with my dentist appointment analogies. (September 12, 2017)
- Penticton 2017: Flames 6, Canucks 2 - Calgary was much better in game 2, led by strong performances from Spencer Foo, Rasmus Andersson and Zach Fischer. More on them and other anecdotes in my six post-game impressions. (September, 11, 2017)
- No Deja Vu: Gulutzan Explains Why this Year's Start Will be Different - Had a chance for a one-on-one interview with Glen Gulutzan in which the Flames coach talked candidly about last year's bad start, what happened, and why it shouldn't repeat itself. (September 10, 2017)
- Draw to Remember: Jankowski on the Art of the Face-off and his Moment of Glory - One night in Brooklyn. Of the over 1,000 face-offs Mark Jankowski took last season, there was one in particular that stood out and will always be a lasting memory. (September 8, 2017)