Embed from Getty ImagesIf the “24/7” series taught us anything, it’s that trash talking in the NHL is also pro quality.
Retired NHL referee Paul Stewart dished some dirty ice shavings in his relatively new Huffington Post blog (he’s doing double duty with the awful HockeyBuzz) sharing how one former Tampa Bay Lighting player and the current general manager where the whiniest of them all.
Yzerman ranked fourth on his Top 5 list, and I wish he’ll share a story one day. It’s been too long since he played for me to remember how much he talked to the refs. I will say that after seeing footage of him get defensive with reporters in a press conference about the Marty St. Louis trade, he did come off a bit whiny when he was throwing the dictionary definition of “snub” out there.
Hey, the fighting spirit to get an upper edge never rests with these guys.
Gratton, however, was the worst, according to Stewart:
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.“)
At least he’s not a biter, I guess.
Another good chunk of the blog discusses another reason why Eric Lindros was a total dick in his early stages of his career. You can read a take on that on Deadspin and Puck Daddy in addition to Stewart’s blog.