The veteran tough guy came to Bruins training camp last year on an invitation and earned a contract, breaking camp with the big club. But he never appeared in a game with Boston, a healthy scratch until being assigned to Providence in November and eventually traded to Anaheim in a swap of minor-leaguers in February.
This year, McGrattan got a new lease on life in the NHL when the Predators claimed him on waivers from the Ducks during the preseason. McGrattan earned a job in Nashville, and has played in 30 of the Predators' first 55 games this season.
Game No. 56 comes in Boston on Saturday, but McGrattan still won't get to play in the Garden. He is out with an upper-body injury and did not make the trip, but his former teammates are still happy that he has made it back to the NHL.
"Definitely, he's worked hard, he's obviously one of the tougher guys in the league," Bruins forward Shawn Thornton said. "He's a good guy. I liked him when he was here. We battled a lot in the minors. Any time someone has put their time in like that, I'm happy for them to see them succeed."
Bruins center Chris Kelly is even more pleased to see McGrattan's revival. They came up together in the Ottawa system and forged a close bond.
"We played together in the minors in Binghamton, where he set the AHL penalty minute record," Kelly said. "We came up to Ottawa together. We were linemates my first year. He always made the games enjoyable. Even some nights when we weren't playing a lot, he'd always keep me smiling. He was at my wedding and I know he's newly engaged as well. You won't meet a nicer guy off the ice. I know some people will find that hard to believe because of the way he plays, but he was always a great teammate and a great guy."
McGrattan does play a rugged brand of hockey. One of the true heavyweights in the game, the 6-foot-4, 235-pound McGrattan has 61 penalty minutes and six fighting majors to go with two assists in his 30 games this season. Overall, he's piled up 456 PIMs with 3-13-16 totals in 212 career games in the NHL.
Those numbers pale in comparison to his AHL stats, where he had 35-27-62 totals in 256 games. Oh, and also 1,206 penalty minutes. That includes an AHL record 551 PIMs, including 39 fighting majors, in the 2004-05 season alone.
"That's something that probably will never be touched," Kelly said. "I'm sure he sent those penalty box timekeepers a Christmas card because he was in there a lot."
Thornton appreciates the role McGrattan plays, especially with the NHL going away from the era of having designated fighters on each roster to protect their more skilled teammates.
"That too," Thornton said. "It doesn't hurt the cause I suppose. I think he's actually a little better hockey player than people give him credit for. When he focuses on playing, he can be a really effective player. So I'm happy to see he's here [in the NHL] and hopefully he can continue to stick it out here."
It hasn't been easy for McGrattan, who not only has had to face the changing nature of the game devaluing the element he brings, but also has overcome some well publicized off-ice issues with substance abuse, though he has now been sober for more than three years.
"Gratts is a great guy and has been through a lot," Kelly said. "I'm sure it's no secret throughout his career he's had to battle hard and work hard, on the ice and off the ice. He's a great guy. He's a guy who I will always speak fondly of because I had a lot of fun with him."
It would have been fun to have seen McGrattan get a chance to show what he could do in Boston, but his friends and former teammates are happy enough to just see him back in the NHL.
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