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
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
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.
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 goodat the tender age of 24. After touring Europe as a photographer I last
read he was working for Quebec’s Classic Auctions