In the summer of 2010, Brian McGrattan was the odd man out.
Derek Boogaard was signed to the New York Rangers as Jody Shelley was added to the Philadelphia Flyers. Two of the NHL's best fighters signed on the same day, but McGrattan found himself out of a job.
The 6'4" 235-pound enforcer was ranked third on HockeyFights.com's official top ten ranking of the NHL's best fighters at the time.
Having no contract after finishing the 2009-10 season with the Calgary Flames, it took until mid-September before McGrattan saw hope of playing in the NHL again.
He spent the season in the AHL with the Providence Bruins, never able to take the NHL enforcer job away from Shawn Thornton. On February 28th, McGrattan was traded to the Anaheim Ducks for David Laliberte and Stefan Chaput.
With George Parros adequately filling the Ducks' need for an enforcer, McGrattan was essentially in the same situation as he was with Boston: filling the AHL enforcer role while a fan favorite served the NHL team.
Anaheim re-signed McGrattan this past summer. It seemed as though this season, McGrattan would at least have job security at the AHL level.
Then it all changed.
After the Ducks put McGrattan on waivers, the 30 year old was claimed by the Nashville Predators. Before this move, Zack Stortini was the Predators' enforcer until he was wrecked by Ryan Reaves.When McGrattan arrived, Stortini was placed on waivers.
Surprisingly, McGrattan was immediately utilized. He played his first NHL game in more than a year on October 13th, against the Phoenix Coyotes. The next night, he had his first NHL fight since January 25, 2010.
He beat Cam Janssen in an entertaining fight. Towards the end, McGrattan was actually smiling during the fight; visible representation of the delight to be back at hockey's highest level.
The fight put McGrattan a decisive 2-0 on the season, having dropped Kevin Westgarth in the preseason.
After the Janssen fight, McGrattan took on Parros, winning another good fight.
His effectiveness in the role earned him his full-time spot on Nashville's roster; he's played in 12 of 16 games since joining the team.
Finally, McGrattan took on Jay Rosehill of the Toronto Maple Leafs in what turned out to be one of the best fighting performances hockey has seen in a while.
As a scrum developed post-whistle in front of Nashville's net, the two big men separated themselves from the crowd and started throwing.
McGrattan out-landed Rosehill easily in the toe-to-toe exchange. More impressively, McGrattan never stopped throwing punches. Once he started going, that right arm continuously went back and came down on Rosehill. Although he was clearly tiring, he kept going.
The fight was stopped when linesmen came in to protect Rosehill, who was leaning away.
McGrattan gave Nashville the best fight the franchise has seen since Wade Belak knocked out Donald Brashear in March 2009.
Additionally, McGrattan gave hockey a new name to consider at the top of its fighter rankings. With players like Steve MacIntyre, Colton Orr, Trevor Gillies and Eric Godard playing very little in the NHL this season, the title of "top fighter" is up for grabs.
With McGrattan's past history and recent work, he has that spot over the likes of Parros and Thornton.
As the crowd roared behind McGrattan after the Rosehill fight, he raised his hands and smiled.
The realization of a successful second opportunity, coupled with the rapid ascent to the throne of hockey fighting has McGrattan beaming.
His reaction to the Rosehill fight may seem like schoolyard antics at first, but McGrattan has every right to be excited.
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