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Old 02-10-2019, 02:29 PM   #1
MissTeeks
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Default “He’s been through it all” - Brian McGrattan Article

Big Ern is a good guy:

https://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl/...ance-big-read/

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On Dec. 4, 2008, McGrattan locked himself inside the bedroom of his Phoenix home and called the Coyotes’ trainer to say he wouldn’t be making practice because he was sick. Coming off a five-day bender fuelled by cocaine and whatever booze he could get his hands on, McGrattan called his mom, Cathy, next. “I’m not sure if I wanted to die — I didn’t care,” he says, now. The realization scared the daylights out of him. He told Cathy: “I need to get some help.”

Thanks to that decision, McGrattan is not only a husband and a dad, but the 37-year-old has also carved out a second career in hockey as a member of the Calgary Flames’ front office in a role that’s unique in the NHL — nobody else in the league does what he does. After a 10-year career protecting his teammates on the ice with his fists, McGrattan is now using his vast life experience to protect and help players as Calgary’s Director of Player Assistance. He’s not a therapist or a doctor — he prefers the terms “big brother” or “friend” — but he’s here to confidentially talk to Flames and prospects about anything and everything, the goal being to ensure that none of them hits rock bottom like he did.
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As he sits here at home surrounded by his family and dogs, McGrattan considers whether the other 30 teams in the NHL are doing enough to support players struggling with personal issues. Michelle looks up from her early afternoon espresso and answers first: “No.” McGrattan nods in agreement. “I don’t think so,” he says. What’s missing in every market — aside from Calgary, the team sitting atop the Western Conference, which he’ll tell you is no coincidence — is an employee in that lifestyle role he occupies. “I’m not the kind of guy to preach,” McGrattan says, “but hopefully it becomes a trend.”
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Treliving has plenty of experience with McGrattan: He was assistant GM in Phoenix when the team acquired the enforcer. The executive actually believed McGrattan back in those days when he lied and said he didn’t have a problem with drugs and alcohol, when he said he didn’t need help after the team’s management offered it. “We joked the first time we talked about this, ‘Who’s the first person you hire to protect your home?’ You hire the thief that’s already been here,” Treliving says. “He knows all the tricks of the trade.” Not that McGrattan’s here to rat out players: The point, and the hope, is to prevent potential problem situations, to encourage players to talk to him before it’s too late. As Treliving describes it: “Let’s not wait until the house is on fire before we call the fire department. Is there a way that we can get in front of this? Are there resources that we can give our players, people to talk to? In Brian’s case, seeing signs that maybe somebody’s heading down the wrong path, that we can prevent something before it becomes an issue — that’s really our mindset. How do we look after our people?”
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It’s McGrattan’s hope that the NHL moves toward the NFL model, with every team adding personnel in a lifestyle role. For now, he says of Calgary, “we’re kind of leaders.” Not only do the Flames boast the lone Director of Player Assistance, but they also have a mental performance coach on staff, in Dr. Matt Brown.

A look at the standings might convince other teams to follow suit, McGrattan figures. “It’s no mistake that our team is in first place right now,” he says, “because of the way guys are treated here.”
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Old 02-10-2019, 02:46 PM   #2
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Very proud of the Flames for instituting this position and so happy that McGrattan is leading the charge. What a champion.
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Old 02-10-2019, 03:21 PM   #3
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I like the Hartley angle to the article as well.
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Old 02-10-2019, 03:39 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by killer_carlson View Post
I like the Hartley angle to the article as well.
the brief Stajan appearance too, by all accounts a good dude. probably wouldn't be easy to track down a guy like McGrattan and imply he needs help (although trying to figure out the timing of that- by all accounts McGrattan was sober by arrival in Calgary ( I think I have that right?) so were Gratts and Stajan buddies prior? I assume so?
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Old 02-10-2019, 04:13 PM   #5
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Great to hear that Emile is two years sober too
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Old 02-10-2019, 04:16 PM   #6
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McGrattan's one of the best ambassadors the team has ever had. We're fortunate to have him.
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Old 02-10-2019, 04:19 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by looooob View Post
the brief Stajan appearance too, by all accounts a good dude. probably wouldn't be easy to track down a guy like McGrattan and imply he needs help (although trying to figure out the timing of that- by all accounts McGrattan was sober by arrival in Calgary ( I think I have that right?) so were Gratts and Stajan buddies prior? I assume so?
Regardless, if they were friends or not, by asking / implying, Stajan proves he has a huge set of cojones....

And good for him for doing so.

Last edited by cupofjoe; 02-10-2019 at 04:28 PM.
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Old 02-10-2019, 04:30 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by looooob View Post
the brief Stajan appearance too, by all accounts a good dude. probably wouldn't be easy to track down a guy like McGrattan and imply he needs help (although trying to figure out the timing of that- by all accounts McGrattan was sober by arrival in Calgary ( I think I have that right?) so were Gratts and Stajan buddies prior? I assume so?
Could be wrong but I don't think he was on his first stint with Calgary (right after Phoenix). It would have been the first year both Stajan and McGrattan were on the team maybe. Still a lot of guts to go to a new teammate on a new team with such a touchy subject, not to mention someone like McGrattan.

Possible they new each other from Junior and just being around each other during the Ottawa-Toronto years.
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Old 02-10-2019, 09:06 PM   #9
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Big 'Ern is a Treasure.
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Old 02-10-2019, 11:05 PM   #10
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What an awesome guy and so great of our team for having this position. I had no idea we were the only team with something like this.
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Old 02-11-2019, 08:22 AM   #11
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i think the best approach to helping normalize mental health concerns for players is having ex-players like Big Ern sharing their stories. If things are kept quiet, or the ex-players who have experienced struggle are kept to the margins, all that does is reinforce the stigma around seeking help.
Embed this in every team, backed by a medical staff and a central support body. I get that the NHL is invested in it's own program, but it concerns me that Daly seems so reticent to back a team-by-team approach, favouring the central model.
Why can't it be both? Teams can afford the salary to a guy, and if you consider the impact of losing a player or prospect due to a preventable issue, then you could also say that they cannot afford not to have someone in this role. LA had to have a crisis to do this, then once the storm clears, it is no longer a focus. Mental health support should be the model, not crisis intervention.

One thing I know myself working in a helping capacity is that while it is valuable to have a professional to go to, often the best icebreaker is to have a peer to whom you can relate as an entry point. You aren't asking that peer to be a therapist, you are asking them to listen, validate, normalize, empower and refer.

The best framework IMO is a peer to go to, who can help the professional medical/therapy staff in both referral/triage and in service feedback/reporting gaps, then a professional team to provide the clinical/therapeutic support. Two levels, two entry points, with communication (whilst maintaining individual confidentiality) between the two layers.
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Old 02-11-2019, 09:17 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by looooob View Post
the brief Stajan appearance too, by all accounts a good dude. probably wouldn't be easy to track down a guy like McGrattan and imply he needs help (although trying to figure out the timing of that- by all accounts McGrattan was sober by arrival in Calgary ( I think I have that right?) so were Gratts and Stajan buddies prior? I assume so?
McGrattan and Stajan came to Calgary in the same season (2009-10). So they could have bonded over that, at least.

Gratts had done rehab in AZ during the season prior to when came to Calgary.
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Old 02-11-2019, 11:12 AM   #13
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A bit off topic, but at the bottom of the article is a link to a story on Akim Aliu. It’s crazy too. Steve Downie is a troubled individual.
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Old 02-11-2019, 11:29 AM   #14
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Great article and love that McGrattan and the Flames are doing this.
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