Gratton Is Suspended For Spitting On Ref

Posted: December 26, 1998

Chris Gratton, recently reacquired by the Tampa Bay Lightning from the Flyers, was suspended by the NHL for three games for spitting at referee Paul Stewart.

The incident occurred in the final seconds of a 2-0 loss at Buffalo on Wednesday night. The automatic suspension for such an incident is three games.

The league did not formally announce the suspension. The Lightning released a statement saying Gratton contended he never spat on Stewart.

``Chris absolutely denies spitting on the referee; however, there was a report filed with the league and the rules provide no avenue for appeal in the matter,'' coach-general manager Jacques Demers said.

``I talked to Chris again this morning and he said he and Stewart were mouthing off at the end of the game,'' Demers said. ``He said Paul Stewart pushed him and maybe Chris sprayed him with saliva while they were yelling.

``Chris is very upset with this allegation, but there's nothing we can do according to the rules.''

Gratton will miss tonight's home game with Florida to begin the suspension.

With seven seconds remaining in the game, Gratton received two-minute penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct and roughing, a 10-minute misconduct and a game misconduct. But Stewart's report claimed the spitting occurred during a third-period fight between Tampa Bay's Darcy Tucker and Buffalo's Vaclav Varada. Stewart said he was attempting to keep Gratton away from the fight.

Gratton was reacquired from Philadelphia on Dec. 12 in a deal that reunited Mikael Renberg with the Flyers.

In other hockey news:

An MRI showed Phoenix Coyotes left wing Keith Tkachuk has only a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee, no tears or cartilage damage. He could play next week. Fellow left wing Mike Sullivan also should be back next week from a broken big toe.

Hockey Hall of Famer Syl Apps, who won the NHL's first Calder Trophy as the rookie of the year in 1936, died Thursday at 83. He also was an Olympian, starring in pole vaulting at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

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Lefthander Trevor Wilson, 32, who played for the Giants from 1988 to 95, returned to San Francisco, agreeing to a $350,000, one-year contract. He missed the 1996 and '97 seasons with a torn rotator cuff. He returned with Anaheim last season. Reliever John Johnstone avoided salary arbitration by agreeing to a $692,500, one-year contract.

TENNIS The Australian government will investigate claims that at least 34 female tennis players were subjected to starvation diets and verbal abuse at the Australian Institute of Sport. The News Limited newspaper group interviewed players involved with the program from its inception in 1981 until 1995. Some players said they developed eating disorders after pressure to lose weight.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL Nick Cherry, a starting forward for Troy State, was killed Wednesday morning when his car lost control on a wet stretch of highway in Waynesboro, Miss., and collided with a logging truck. The funeral is Tuesday, the same night Troy State is to play in a tournament at Utah State, but the team might cancel the trip.

Iowa State guard Travis Spivey, a transfer from Georgia Tech who is sitting out this season, was charged with public intoxication and simple assault after police were called to a fast-food restaurant in Ames, Iowa.

PHILLY FILE Delaware football players Eddie Conti (end) and Lamont Watson (linebacker were named to the All-ECAC first team, and Brian Cook (offensive lineman) and Dale Koscielski (safety) were named to the second team.

SPORT STOPS Hawaiian-born grand champion Akebono will pass up the New Year's Grand Sumo tournament in Tokyo next month to recover from a lower back injury, the Japanese Kyodo News Agency reported.

Senior PGA Tour golfer Robert Landers, 54, is recovering from a heart attack and triple-bypass surgery in Fort Worth, Texas.

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