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DIFFERENT DANCE PARTNER

Former Flames tough guy Brian McGrattan ready to show his graceful side on CBC's Battle of the Blades

by BRENDAN PARKER @BParkerTV / CalgaryFlames.com

Former Flames tough guy Brian McGrattan was described in lot of ways during his nine-year NHL career.

Tough.

Intimidating.

'Graceful' wasn't likely a description he was ever aiming for.

"I was trying to be, yeah," McGrattan said. "My fights were really graceful. I was trying to be as nice as possible."

OK, maybe not. But 'graceful' is precisely the goal now.

 

Video: Brian McGrattan is ready for Battle of the Blades

 

McGrattan has traded his hockey skates for figure skates to participate in the CBC show Battle of the Blades, competing against fellow hockey players who have been paired with figure skaters for the competition.

McGrattan is skating with Vanessa James - an Olympic pairs skater from France - who is also doing the show for the first time.

"Half of it for me was for the skating; the other half was for the interview side," McGrattan said. "I thought it was a really good way to promote mental health, addiction, players struggling with my story."

McGrattan, now a member of the hockey development staff in charge of player assistance, has done just that with several players both past and present by just that - telling his story.

Now, he's gone headfirst into this new challenge, and taken away a completely new appreciation for the discipline.

"I've been blown away by kind of everything they have, it's kind of opened my eyes up to a whole new world," McGrattan said. "She would blow the doors off of three quarters of the guys I played with over my career."

It's also something new for James, working with and teaching a hockey player the art of figure skating.

"He's doing so well, he's surpassed all of my expectations and I really trust him," she said. "It has everything to do with him and nothing with me. Making me feel comfortable and safe, he's working really hard and he's doing amazingly well."

Added McGrattan: "It's gone zero to a hundred in three weeks. It's like learning how to skate for three days and then learning routines and lifts and all that stuff."

 

Tweet from @CBC: Expect the unexpected. "I never thought when I was fighting this guy in my career that I'd be holding hands with him out there spinning on the ice." ��� Brian McGrattan@CBCBattle premieres tonight at 8/8:30NT on CBC and CBC Gem. pic.twitter.com/c6zVhjSn2o

 

Now, all that work will be put to the test. The first live show goes Thursday in Hamilton (live on CBC, 6 p.m. MT) where they will perform their first routine as a pair.

"I've never been nervous going to a rink in my entire life, but there'll be some nerves," McGrattan said.

James included.

"They're very vulnerable, they've never done this before," she said. "They've only had a few weeks crash course. We learn things in months and years and they've only had a few weeks."

But like every other challenge he's been faced with, McGrattan plans to meet it head on, and excel while doing it.     

"Well when we win it, it's going to be very cool. Then I can show all these naysayers in hockey that I wasn't the fleetest of foot out there but I'll show them all up," McGrattan said with a chuckle.

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