Shortly after my retirement from the NHL as an active referee, the Hockey News asked me to name the five biggest whiners I had to deal with on the ice. In descending order from one to five, the players were Chris Gratton, Tyson Nash, Craig Janney, Steve Yzerman and Keith Tkachuk. I'll share stories about the other players some other time but for now, I talk about Gratton.
If you ever looked at Chris Gratton's career, he was the type of player that in the era in which I played would have been branded as a pseudo tough guy. He was bold and brave when either playing at home and/or going up against someone much smaller or at the end of a long shift when Gratton had just hopped on the ice. On the road, he could often carry a carton of eggs in his sweater without breaking any.
Gratton also complained about pretty much every call that did not go his way. He'd give my linesmen grief if he sent in a play two feet offside and the play got whistled down. According to him, he was never guilty of a penalty; to the point that, even when he did have a legitimate beef, he'd already cried wolf too many times before.
In December of 1998, I was working a game in Buffalo between Gratton's Tampa Bay club and the Sabres. In the third period, there was a fight between Tampa Bay's Darcy Tucker and Buffalo's Vaclav Varada. In an effort to get Gratton to stop hovering nearby and move off to the periphery to let the fight run its course, I nudged him aside.
Gratton yelled at me, claiming I shoved him forcefully. As we argued, he spit on me. As a result, Mr. Gratton earned himself a three-game unpaid vacation from the NHL, losing a nice hunk of money (or as Casey Stengel allegedly once said after getting suspended for spitting on an umpire, "I got more than I expectorated.")
With Gratton, I always felt like no one played the "potential card" longer than him. Every year, it seemed like you heard, "Gratton has potential" "Gratton could be something" - all the way into his 30's it felt like...
sounds like when the Canucks traded for Taylor Pyatt