WILMINGTON, Mass. — To a man, Bruins players and coaches have talked about how Brian McGrattan, who recently signed a one-year contract after trying out during training camp, is a “great teammate.”
Any question about what that means gets cleared up when a reporter asks the 29-year-old journeyman forward why he does what he does — fight like a man possessed when necessary — and how much longer he has to take a licking and keep on ticking.
“I have a lot of years left to do this,” the 6-foot-4, 235-pound warrior said after a practice this week. “I honestly enjoy it. Everything, the fans really get into it, the guys love it. The adrenaline rush.”
But even when there’s a risk of winding up like Calgary’s Raitis Ivanans, on one’s rear end as the result of a punch from a fellow heavyweight like Steve McIntyre?
“Everybody gets knocked down. There’s not a fighter in this league that that hasn’t happened to. If there is, I’d like to meet him. It comes with the job. You put your nose out there and you’re there and there’s always someone tougher. There’s always a tougher guy each night and sometimes it doesn’t work out the way you want it to – whatever,” says McGrattan, a 100-plus PIM man in the NHL twice and owner of just 14 points in 182 regular-season games.
“You’re there to do a job. You’re either there to create the momentum for your team or stick up for a teammate or you’re there to set the tone. If you lose, you lose. If you win, you win. It’s part of the role. Everybody loses.”
In recent seasons, the Bruins have relied on Shawn Thornton and Milan Lucic the most to pack some punch. Of course, those two players can do other hockey-related tasks. McGrattan’s No. 1 skill is pugilism and everything else comes after that. That doesn’t mean he didn’t earn his spot with some actual hockey playing over the course of training camp.
“It’s probably been the most consistent four or five weeks of my career,” he said. “I just try hard every day and put my best foot forward and it’s nice to see some things happening. I’m really happy with that.”
Once McGrattan gets into the lineup, he’ll have no problem sticking his nose out for a new bunch of teammates the same way he did during his previous stops in Ottawa, Phoenix and Calgary. He says he has fit in well in the locker room, especially during the down time in Prague. An unscientific poll of the dressing room this week revealed McGrattan is a popular guy. That popularity will be multiplied 10 fold if he dresses for a game at TD Garden and gets to throw his fists around.
“The team’s been awesome,” he said. “They’ve given me a second chance at playing in the league. My teammates have been great being really open and taking me. So it’s been a positive in all ways.”