For the second time in the past three North American Hockey League postseasons, Johnstown resident Mike Grattan is a Robertson Cup champion.
A 1995 graduate of Forest Hills High School and former Rangers standout hockey player, Grattan is the Shreveport Mudbugs director of scouting. The Mudbugs edged the top-seeded Aberdeen Wings 4-2 in the Robertson Cup championship game on Tuesday night at the Fogerty Center in Blaine, Minnesota.
Of course, the superstitious Grattan didn’t make the trip to Minnesota for the final.
“Absolutely not,” Grattan said during a Wednesday telephone interview. “They said, ‘Are you coming?’ I said, ‘We won last time when I didn’t come.’ ”
Grattan stayed away, just as he did when the Mudbugs won the NAHL championship in 2018.
“We did it again,” he said.
Grattan might not have been in the building, but he was instrumental in assembling the team coach Jason Campbell led to the title again on Tuesday.
“It’s always a special thing to be a part of a team that wins it,” Grattan said. “Obviously, it’s different the second time around. Jason, our head coach, had won it as a player and as an assistant. To see him win it as a head coach completed the cycle for him.”
The Johnstown Tomahawks won the East Division regular-season title this season and advanced to the NAHL playoffs, but were upset by the Maryland Black Bears in the first round.
In his fifth season with the Mudbugs, Grattan previously had served as an assistant coach with the Aberdeen Wings from 2014-16.
“I still text with the owner,” Grattan said. “They had a tremendous season. We ended it by beating them, but it could have gone either way.”
Grattan followed the current Mudbugs players even before they were part of the team. He knows their skills, strengths and weaknesses.
“My primary responsibility is to help us put together a roster,” he said. “It’s a team effort.”
There were similarities between the Mudbugs’ two title-winning teams.
Shreveport and Aberdeen actually won the two most recent NAHL titles, with the Wings winning in 2019. The 2020 playoffs were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“They’re all prized players,” Grattan said.
“Like the 2017-18 team, we were really deep. Matt Weber, who we recruited during the 2017-18 season, was actually a part of that team. He is the last playing member of that team that is left.
“He won as a player in 2017-18 and he won it again as a graduating player.”
Another mainstay this season was a prized recruit in 2018.
“David Breazeale, our captain, we recruited David at the end of the 2017-18 season,” Grattan said. “We were trying to tender David. We were in the playoffs and there are no trades allowed to be made at that time. We asked David to wait for us.
“He had other offers. He wanted to play for us and he waited. He signed with us and became our captain. Now we won the championship.”
Grattan said his Johnstown and Forest Hills hockey roots have played a role throughout his NAHL career.
“All of the local people have always helped,” he said. “That’s the Rick Boyds, the Frank and Francis Anzalones, Cliff Zeigler, who was my high school coach, Travis Winter, Carlos Zirnis, my family, my parents, my siblings – all were instrumental in supporting my hockey career.”
Mike Mastovich is a sports reporter and columnist for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 814-532-5083. Follow him on Twitter @Masty81.