Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Gartoony the Loony

While baseball may have had its share of flakes with the likes of Bill “Spaceman” Lee and Turk Wendell, hockey can certainly boast of having its own eccentric players. Perhaps one of the biggest flakes to take to the ice was Gilles “Gratoony the Loony” Gratton.
In a day and age when goalies were often considered eccentric, Gratton’s folly has been well documented….
He often sat out games, complaining of recurring abdominal pains. A centuries-long believer in reincarnation – he could give explicit details of each of his lives – he said it was from when he was a soldier killed by a lance during the Spanish Inquisition.  Another time, he sat out a game because he said the moon was located in the wrong place in the sky.
He liked hanging out naked after practices and occasionally skated nude on the ice, wearing nothing but his mask. Despite often threatening teammates he’d do a strip-tease during a game (this was after the movie Slapshot was made), he never played without his sweater.
Ultimately, he felt playing goalie was perhaps a just (and somewhat ironic) punishment after stoning people during one of his previous lives
The brother of former Buffalo Sabre and Minnesota North Star Norm Gratton, Gilles was a 69th overall pick by the Buffalo Sabres in 1972. An OMJHL second-team All-Star with the Oshawa Generals, he signed with the World Hockey Association instead, playing three years with the Ottawa Nationals and Toronto Toros, recording an 81-66 record, with four shutouts and a 3.69 GAA.  He was actually on the roster of the 1974 WHA Summit Series vs. the Russians.  
I have to admit, he did have one of the coolest goalie masks, however, based on Leo the Lion, his astrological sign. While the mask alone may have been somewhat intimidating, he would often growl at opposing players nearing his crease and once hissed during a fight.

He played six games for the NHL’s St. Louis Blues in 1975-76, before announcing his retirement. Knowing the wanted to return to the Toros, St. Louis refused to grant Gratton waivers, so he was forced to sit out the rest of the season. He signed with the New York Rangers as an unrestricted free agent during the 1976-77 season, recording an 11-18 record and a 4.22 GAA.
He played on game with the AHL’s New Haven Nighthawks during the 1997-78 season, retiring for good  at the tender age of 24. After touring Europe as a photographer I last read he was working for Quebec’s Classic Auctions


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