Forward Brian McGrattan will return to the Coyotes lineup on Tuesday night after completing the NHL substance abuse program.
“I didn’t enjoy or appreciate anything in my life including my friends, family or anything that I had,” said McGrattan, who voluntarily joined the program on Dec. 13. “It was so dark. Going through what I just went through, it really was an eye-opener.”
When McGrattan steps on the ice for his first game with the Coyotes in nearly four months, he said would feel a renewed passion for hockey.
“It’s going to be awesome,” said McGrattan, who last played with the Coyotes on Nov 18 against Chicago. “I am really excited. I am getting a second chance here and I am going to make a strong point that I deserve to play in this league. I have a little left here to prove to the team that I can play here and stay here.”
McGrattan feels he has a lot to prove to an organization that stuck with him through difficult times.
“For the organization here to let me play again, I’m grateful for them letting me do that,” McGrattan said. “I am grateful to be a part of an organization like this that has supported me the whole way and did not turn their back.”
Coyotes Head Coach Wayne Gretzky knows it has been a long journey for McGrattan and he is willing to give him a chance over the team’s last 13 games.
“He has gone through a lot, and good for him that he has battled through it,” Gretzky said. “He has another chance here. I hope he takes full advantage of it. I hope he shows up to play hard. I think he will. I think it will be a positive for him and for our team.”
McGrattan, who was acquired from Ottawa last summer, has been skating the past three weeks with San Antonio of the American Hockey League, the Coyotes top affiliate, and likened the skating to a training camp.
“The first week was a little tough, but the last two weeks have been really good,” McGrattan said. “I have been really training hard and I got myself in pretty good shape.”
The fresh start for McGrattan includes a new number on his sweater.
“It’s packed here will all the new faces, but I am just excited to get out there,” said McGrattan, who will now wear No. 22. On Tuesday, he will play on a line with fellow tough guys Todd Fedoruk and Brandon Prust.