Talks to Peter Collins September 1999

BRAD Rubachuk may have gone but his replacement Greg Gatto has well and truly arrived. Like Ruby, Greg's aggressive hard-hitting style hides a talent for getting among the goals and strong leadership qualities.

"Each year I try to go one better," he said: "I made the progression from Basingstoke to London, now I see it as another huge step coming to Manchester. "I know I'm not going to top the points count, the way I play will never allow me to do that, but I'd like to think I can improve my numbers and also provide some leadership."

He'll also have to undergo something of a role reversal, the predator becoming protector. "Whenever we played Manchester we were always told to go out and knock their smaller skill guys off their game. Now my job is to stop them taking the kind of punishment guys like me used to dish out, as well as setting them up in front of goal."

The 29-year-old 6ft 1in centre/rightwing from Calgary, Alberta, spent last season with the London Knights where he proudly wore an 'A', the year before he was with the Basingstoke Bison. Previously he starred with the University of Lethbridge after gaining valuable experience with the WHL's Portland Timber Hawks, Regina Pats and Spokane Chiefs. During the 1992-93 season he received the Canada West and University of Lethbridge 'Rookie of the Year' awards, becoming the university team's assistant captain and then captain. He was then voted 'male athlete of the year', MVP and CIAU All Canadian during the 1995-96 campaign, and the following year he went onto captain Team Canada at the World University Games and at the Nagano Cup in Japan.

One of the first things to strike him about his new situation is the Storm's professionalism. "Going to Switzerland for training camp was a great experience and just shows how seriously this organisation takes things. It was the ideal way to get to know each other quickly." And when it comes to accomodation he really appreciates living within easy driving distance of the Storm Shelter. "It didn't help being bussed into London from Milton Keynes every home game, it made it feel like every game was an away game. "We couldn't take a nap or go for a walk the afternoon of a home game because we had to be on the bus, and I'm sure all that travelling wore us out, we never really had enough time to relax."

It shouldn't take him long to adjust to his new teammates' style of play, after all he was with Mike Harding at London; played alongside Darren Hurley and Blair Scott at Basingstoke and played junior hockey with Kelly Askew. Sharing a flat temporarily with Kevin Hoffman in Salford, Greg is awaiting the arrival of his girlfriend of four years, 31-year-old English teacher Robin. She'll be joining him soon and they hope to move into a flat in Swinton. But what prompted the move north? "Even though I hadn't had a particularly good year in London I would have stayed on, but I was never given the opportunity. "One or two of the guys were approached during the season but no-one really sat down with the rest of us to discuss things, so we didn't expect to be asked back. I was about to fly home and I'd still heard nothing so I told my agent I was open to offers." It didn't help his chances when he finished the season with what was at first thought to be a bad concussion. But doctors in Canada gave him the all-clear, diagnosing an inner ear problem which has now cleared up. It was then he got the call he'd been waiting for.

"Kurt rang to say he was interested in me but he needed to sort out one or two things before he could take matters further, but as soon as he phoned back and made me an offer I grabbed it. "I hadn't won many games with Basingstoke or London but I knew I'd put that right with Manchester, also the prospect of winning a trophy or two and playing in the EHL were big factors."

In Switzerland Greg formed a formidable line alongside Mike Harding and Rick Brebant But whoever he plays alongside they can be sure that whenever the going gets tough, Greg will be the one to get going. "Kurt wants me to play just like Ruby and hopefully I can make as big an impression as he obviously has both on and off the ice. It's a dream move for me coming to Manchester and I don't intend letting anyone down."