Monday, 9 October 2017

TBC: Gratoony The Loony

I've read a number of biographies and autobiographies. Normally, I choose the book based upon the person in question who I find interesting. I've been lucky to have read some excellent, moving, and interesting stories about people's lives, but today's autobiography in Teebz's Book Club is on an entirely different level. Gilles Gratton was always seen as a bit of an odd-ball in NHL circles for his beliefs, superstitions, and pranks, but I'm not sure he's ever sat down and let everything that's going on in his head come out at once. We get a glimpse in what's going in on in the head of the man they called Gratoony the Loony as Teebz's Book Club is proud to review Gratoony The Loony: The Wild, Unpredictable Life of Gilles Gratton, written by Gilles Gratton and Greg Oliver, and published by ECW Press. It has been said many times that "goaltenders are a different breed", but Gilles Gratton might have redefined the eccentricities with which goaltenders are often associated. Known for his lion mask, Gratoony The Loony takes you inside the mind of the man behind the mask for the stories that made up Gilles Gratton's life.

From the biography on the ECW website, "Gilles Gratton is a former goaltender who currently works with Classic Auctions, a historical hockey memorabilia auction house. He lives in Montreal with his wife, Anne, and teenaged children, William and Charlotte." Gilles Gratton played junior hockey with the Oshawa Generals where he was drafted by the Buffalo Sabres. Instead of joining his brother, Norm, on the Sabres, he inked a deal with the WHA's Ottawa Nationals to play for them. Gratton would spend time with the Toronto Toros, the St. Louis Blues, the New York Rangers, and the AHL's New Haven Nighthawks before retiring from hockey to pursue other opportunities.

Directly from the ECW Press website, "Greg Oliver is the author of the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame series — The Canadians, The Heels, The Tag Teams, and Heroes & Icons. He has been writing about professional wrestling for over 25 years, starting with The Canadian Wrestling Report newsletter when he was still in high school. Upon completing a degree in journalism from Ryerson University, he worked at the Toronto Sun and for a decade. A freelancer since 2001, he has worked on more than 40 books as an editor, writer and layout artist. At the moment, he has two hockey books in the works. He lives in Toronto with his wife Meredith, son Quinn, and is active in the community, both in Scouting and as a soccer coach."

I guess the big question is what do you know about Gilles Gratton? There are many stories out there - skating nude in practice, wild partying in New York, his ability to play the piano, his search for peace through Transcendental Meditation - but which ones do you take with grains of salt not knowing the man himself? Thanks to Mr. Gratton, a lot of the rumours are either confirmed or put to rest in Gratoony The Loony as it seems like he's very self-aware in terms of what the public was saying about him.

Gratoony The Loony is like any autobiography in terms of its structure as Mr. Gratton takes you through his childhood and into adulthood where he became a professional hockey player. He talks of family, friends, teammates, coaches, and management, and he shares a number of funny stories about life on the road and what Gilles Gratton was like in the 1970s during his playing days. Needless to say, Mr. Gratton's life is far from a conventional NHL player's life, and that's part of what makes Gratoony The Loony an enjoyable read.

For example, Gilles tells a story of his time in the WHA where he and Mike Amodeo had a little fun with Toros GM Buck Houle. He writes,
We were on the bus in Cleveland, and me and Mike Amodeo were sitting behind Buck. I got up and pissed just a little on each of his shoulders and then sat back down. Buck reached back to touch the wetness, felt it, and took out his handkerchief to clean it up. Five minutes later, I got up and did it again - just a little on each shoulder. He really didn't notice besides wiping it up with the handkerchief. Five minutes later, I do it again and sit back down. Then he turned around, and scolded us both, "You guys had better stop it!" He thought we were putting water on him.
Could you imagine if a player did that to a general manager today? He'd not only never play again for that franchise, but there's a good chance he'd be buried in the minors until his contract ran out! The fact that Mr. Gratton played these types of pranks on a number of people - strangers, teammates, coaches, management - shows how different of a world it was in professional hockey in the 1970s.

There's no denying that Mr. Gratton's career would have been longer had he simply been focused on hockey, but he admits in the book that he never really wanted to play hockey. Instead, he was constantly searching for enlightenment and answers to some of his existential questions. He was curious about astral traveling and got into Transcendental Meditation in a big way. It was through TM that Gilles met Bruce Jessop who worked as a photographer for the IIHF and many European leagues, and Jessop got Gilles into photography. Gilles, in return, got Jessop into yoga in 1983 as he moved on from TM.

I could probably write another thousand words on everything I learned about Gilles Gratton in Gratoony The Loony. Labeling him as "loony", however, is about as far off the mark as one can get when talking about Gilles Gratton. Yes, some of his views on the world differ from what we'd expect a professional to have, but he's a curious soul who walked his own path and eventually found happiness with his wife Anne and his children. I think we can all agree that the pursuit of happiness doesn't have a distinct, worn path that one can walk, and Mr. Gratton simply found his path to happiness.

Gratoony The Loony won't lead you down a path of enlightenment or ive you answers to questions about past lives like Gilles Gratton discovered, but it will entertain you. He was often mocked for his antics and beliefs, but Gratoony The Loony makes it pretty clear that Gilles Gratton was a fun-loving guy who enjoyed a laugh as much as he enjoyed playing music. While hockey was his way of making some good money, it was never a priority to him. It did, however, provide a pile of hilarious stories and some great insight into Mr. Gratton's life, and that's a great reason for Gratoony The Loony receiving the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval!

Gratoony The Loony hit bookstores, libraries, and news stands on October 3, so I recommend you check this book out. Parents, please be warned that there is some choice language in the book, so I'd stamp a PG-rating on this book and recommend it for older readers rather than adolescents. Fans of the WHA and of Gratton in general will enjoy this book, though, so pick it up today!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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