Picking a Fight

Cat’s Whiskers Podcast presenter Tina Taylor writes about Brian McGrattan, Fighting & backlash.

Most Elite League hockey fans will be aware of the most recent Panthers signing news. If you’re not, we’ve signed former NHL and AHL enforcer Brian McGrattan as a ‘replacement’ for Cam Janssen.

From what I’ve seen the news has been met pretty favourably by the Panthers fan base and there’s even a few fans from other teams praising the signing as a good move for the league. Add this to some of the other signings in the league such as Jay Rosehill in Braehead & Patrick Bordeleau in Cardiff and we have some real potential for PR success and exposure.

However, we also seem to have had a fair bit of backlash being directed in the direction of Panthers Marketing and Communications Officer Calum Chalmers following a tweet on August 26th, which was in response to a question directed to him regarding Panthers not giving permission to @HockeyFightsUK to use footage of fights filmed at the NIC:

Now with us having signed a seasoned and experienced fighter the vitriol is being gleefully tweeted in Calum’s direction from all areas, fans of other teams but also Panthers fans.

Let’s analyse this for a moment, he’s already had a resounding shoeing for calling it a ‘man’s sport’ and I have no desire or need to bring in the sexism element into this discussion but firstly, does anyone think for one moment that the decision to not allow the use of footage was Calum’s to make?

I seriously doubt it!

I would question the wisdom of not allowing the footage to be used by HockeyFights UK or even its North American equivalent as it’s an element of the sport that some people find exciting, but that’s the club’s decision and as a Panthers fan and a member of the Cats Whiskers Podcast I’m getting used to those sorts of decisions!

Secondly, he’s right, sort of.
Leagues the world over are seeing the number of fights dwindle, the number of enforcers lessen and we’re even taking about the death of the enforcer role in Hockey. I’m an NHL fan and I like watching the highlights of the games that I’m not going to watch in full, but I’ve never watched an NHL highlight video that featured a fight so for that, I need to go to HockeyFights.com because the NHL are actively trying to discourage fighting in he sport! (I suppose when you have a multi-million dollar lawsuit on your hands from former players who have suffered concussions and lingering head trauma, you’re going to do everything you can to make sure you’re not in that situation again!)

There is no longer any reason to EXPECT a fight in a game of hockey… But that doesn’t mean there won’t be one. As the fights and fighters drift off into the history books and the archives of YouTube, EXPECTING a fight in a game of hockey may have you leaving an arena or rink disappointed and is that what we really want? Fans leaving a game disappointed just because they didn’t see a fight?

Thirdly, he was asked a direct question and he at least had the decency to put together a reply.
Do you know what’s worse than a bad reply?
No reply.
Trust me, we know!

Allow me to indulge my inner geek for a moment, I’m not usually one for making direct comparisons but as McGrattan is clearly Janssen’s replacement, I might as well keep it simple!
screen-shot-2016-09-17-at-13-08-48*Fight totals taken from HockeyFights.com

It’s worth pointing out that in signing McGrattan we’ve actually signed a player who is statistically less likely to be fighting and actually more likely to be scoring points than Janssen. You can probably ignore the points per game ratio for both players for the NHL because at that level they were never expected to put up points, they were the muscle, the energy guys and the players who would step in to challenge the opposition if required.
In general terms, from OHL to NHL Janssen’s points per game ratio is 0.12 with a ratio of 0.40 in fights per game, compare that with McGrattan’s PPG of 0.26 and FPG of 0.27 and while it may not seem like much, it’s significant at least to note that our new boy has more to him than just dropping the gloves.

Cam Janssen wasn’t in the top 10 for penalties at the end of his EIHL season including his fights despite being touted as being on first name terms with DoPS before he’d even hit the ice, he picked his battles well and treated us to probably some of the best fights we can say we saw live. His battles with Keefe and Fitzgerald were entertaining to watch even though he didn’t outright dominate, he fought when he needed to and he was effective in other ways, monster hits, the hits that didn’t connect but still made you wince, the on-ice presence and quite importantly he was respected by the officials in our league because he did it all the right way.

Brian McGrattan has the opportunity to be this kind of player too if he wants to and with his points production being better than Janssen’s he also has the opportunity to be more than that kind of player.

Cam Janssen was signed on the back of both Erick Lizon and Theo Peckham doing U-turns on their contracts (not to mention a stellar recommendation from Panthers alumni Jordan Fox and Brock Wilson). Brian McGrattan has been signed on the back of Janssen also doing a U-turn to sure up his place in the world after being a hockey player. It’s not easy and you have to make the hard decisions when the right opportunities come your way.

While Cam Janssen is busy making the most of his opportunity, the Nottingham Panthers appear to have made the most of this opportunity and, on paper at least, there is the potential to improve on the good work started by Janssen and I for one am looking forward to seeing how it, and Brian McGrattan develops.

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