Photo Credit: Norm Hall
Josh Gratton is a tough man. In 162 career minor league games, Gratton amassed an astounding 819 penalty minutes. A self-proclaimed agitator, Gratton admits that he loves to mix things up.
"(I'm) more of an agitator," said Gratton. "I'm a guy that will stick up for his teammates, and more of a role player that tips in a goal here and there and does anything to help the team win."
Gratton, 24, is still considered a rookie in the National Hockey League, having played just 15 career NHL games and he understands what he has to do in order to have a spot on the Phoenix Coyotes roster.
"Some people score goals, some people do what I do, that's just the role that I've been given and I'm happy to take it," said Gratton.
Although a roster spot wasn't a guarantee for the Brantford, Ontario native, Josh went into training camp with his mind set on making the team.
"It's tough not knowing (if you have made the team or not) and being a young guy and having to battle," admits Gratton. "But it builds a lot of character."
Gratton took the road less traveled to the NHL. He was not drafted and was not immediately signed to a contract, resulting in an uphill battle to make the NHL. Gratton worked his way up the ranks and made his way into the NHL. He made his NHL debut in 2005-06 with the Philadelphia Flyers after playing on four different minor league teams in the American Hockey League (AHL), and the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL).
"It was a great accomplishment personally for myself," said Gratton. "To go up through all the ranks of hockey and never being drafted to the OHL, never being drafted to the NHL. It's a tough road, you learn a lot along the way."
If the name Gratton sounds familiar to Coyotes, it should. Josh's cousin Chris played for the Coyotes for parts of two seasons from 2002-003 to 2003-04. But this is not the first team that both Josh and Chris have played for. Chris played for Kingston in the OHL from 1991-1993. Josh followed ten years later, playing in 46 games for Kingston in 2001-02. Chris played in Philadelphia from 1997-99 and the Flyers would give Josh his first break in the NHL.
"We're pretty close," said Gratton of his cousin Chris. "He helped me out a lot (with) my hockey and gave me advice and now that we are playing in the same league, I am looking forward to playing in the game in Florida against him. That would be a dream come true."
Gratton is just beginning his career in the NHL and hopes it's a lengthy one. He knows that his toughness is what got him into the league and hopes his skills will be what keep him here.
"I just want to establish myself as a bona fide NHL hockey player," said Gratton. "I've had a lot of people help me out along the way. It just gives me that much more drive to try and prove myself. I think about playing hockey before I think about fighting, it might not always seem like that but I care more about playing the game then fighting.
"You just have to wait and pay your dues and you'll get a chance and hopefully I'll get a chance to play in every game because when you are playing once in a while and sitting out some games you feel a little more pressure on yourself to prove that you should be in the lineup so hopefully I'll get a chance to play everyday and show what I can do."