Josh Cooper of The Tennessean spoke with Preds forward Brian McGrattan about the recently released New York Times’ Derek Boogaard piece, which revealed Boogaard’s brain showed signs of degenerative brain disease CTE.
If anyone’s qualified to speak to the article, it’s McGrattan. He filled the same enforcer role Boogaard once did (McGrattan fought 39 times during the 2004-05 AHL season) and, like Boogaard, also spent time in the NHL/NHLPA Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program.
He spoke with Cooper about the dangers of getting hurt while fighting, his mental approach and the future of the enforcer role.
“Getting hurt to me, I don’t think about it, because if I start to think about it, then it will happen. I come to the rink – I don’t come foaming at the mouth to fight at night. If I fight during a game, I’ll think about it for about 30 seconds before I do it.
“I’ve heard of guys saying they can’t sleep the night before, can’t eat the day of. If you can’t do it, it’s obviously not the job for you. I do it the guys on the team need it, the fans like it. It’s just what I do. If I had a problem doing it and I couldn’t function an everyday normal life then I wouldn’t do it.
“I think they should just let it go with the enforcing. I don’t know how long hockey has been going for, but it has been going on since the dawn of hockey. I can’t see it going anywhere. I think they should let it be.”
That last sentiment is shared by a number of McGrattan’s peers. A recent ESPN poll showed 20 of 20 NHLers said fighting shouldn’t be banned, a sentiment that’s been confirmed in previous player polls. Many NHLers understand and accept the inherent dangers in their jobs — all jobs, including enforcers — something Washington’s Brook Laich spoke bluntly about following the Jay Beagle-Arron Asham fight:
“This is what we love to do,” he said. “Guys love to play, they love to compete, they want to be on the ice. How do you take that away from someone? We accept that there’s going to be dangers when we play this game. We know that every time we get dressed.
“I don’t know, sometimes it just feels like we’re being babysat a little too much. We’re grown men and we should have a say in what we want to do.”