Nashville Predators forward Brian McGrattan has seen increased stability in his personal life over the course of the last few years. In early December, the 30-year-old McGrattan celebrated the third anniversary of his sobriety. Later that month, during the NHL’s short Christmas break, McGrattan became engaged to his longtime girlfriend Michelle. In late July, the couple became Mr. and Mrs. McGrattan.
Now the tough guy known to many as Big Ern is seeing some stability in his professional life as well. The Predators claimed McGrattan off of waivers from the Anaheim Ducks soon after the 2011-12 season began. The Nashville jersey was the next in long line of different uniforms the on-ice pugilist has worn over the course of the last few years.
McGrattan became an unrestricted free agent July 1st, but his time on the market was short, as the Predators inked him to a new one-year, $600,000 contract late that afternoon.
“I was just kind of hanging around and just waiting for a call,” McGrattan said Monday prior to the Predators’ annual Skate of the Union event. “Sometimes teams have to deal with some other guys that they are trying to get signed with other parts of the team, so I was waiting for the call. It was a great July. I re-signed with the team at the beginning, and I got married at the end of July. It was a really good start to my summer. It is really great to be back in a place that I love to play; a great group of guys, a great organization, everything.”
McGrattan broke into the NHL in the 2005-06 season, but after spending three seasons in Canada’s capital, he crisscrossed North America playing in both the NHL and AHL with stops in Phoenix, San Antonio, Calgary, Providence, and Syracuse before being claimed by the Predators.
“It is good to stay in the same spot two years in a row because other than my first three years in Ottawa, I have been kind of on the move the last four or five years,” he said. “It was really good to stay in the spot that my wife and I love and it is a lot easier training and stuff when you know you are going to a place and not worried about where you are going to be.”
In limited action with the Predators last season, McGrattan posted two assists and had 61 penalty minutes in 30 games played. He is hoping to see an increased role in his second season in Nashville.
“I’ve had good talks with Barry and he wants to play me in some different situations next year,” McGrattan said. “That kind of puts the onus on me a little bit to be in the best shape I can and to be as ready as I can for an opportunity that could be there. I am looking forward to the challenge and hopefully get some more games and some different situations than I did last year.”
To get ready for the upcoming season, McGrattan has joined forces with defenseman Ryan Ellis to train both on and off of the ice.
“We have been training every day together,” McGrattan said. “I am excited for him, and I am excited for myself too. We have grown a pretty good friendship over the summer. I think he is going to take the most of the opportunity given to him in camp. It has been a good summer training with Elly because he has really pushed me. He works really hard. He has really been a good training partner to have because he pushes me to be better than him, and I push him to be better than me. It is good to workout with a guy from the team and push each other all summer.”
A vacancy on Nashville’s blue line was created when Ryan Suter signed with the Minnesota Wild July 4th, and McGrattan can tell that Ellis is doing everything he can to claim that spot on an every night basis.
“He could be a player that fills that void,” McGrattan said. “He is a young guy. He got his first taste of the National Hockey League, his first taste of pro last year. He even looks different. He has really worked hard and I think he is really going to take the most of the opportunity to be one of our top defensemen.”