Stu Grimson

Stu Grimson was a skating contradiction in many ways. The son of a RCMP police officer and devoutly religious Christian made his living in one of the most violent occupations known to North Americans - NHL tough guy.

"I've always felt, why can't a born-again Christian play an aggressive role in a physical sport?" the man nicknamed "The Grim Reaper said. "Christ stuck up for people who were weak or lame in the Bible. (Fighting) takes place within the context of the game. This is just a game."

Further adding to his list of contradictions was his interest in education, not something normally associated with hockey players, and especially not with the goons.

He left the ice world of violence and joined the halls of academia, earning his degree in economics from the University of Manitoba and later a law degree at the University of Memphis.

Grimson actually began his degree at Manitoba before going to the NHL. Coming off of three seasons in the tough Canadian junior leagues, the 6'5" giant was twice drafted by the NHL (Detroit in 1983 and Calgary in 1985) but he was struggling to accept a life of hockey violence.

"I think it was the whole prospect of playing professional hockey, and specifically playing the role I was playing. That was pretty intimidating to me, and I really wrestled with that a lot. I was just never comfortable in that role at that stage in my life, and I was prepared to walk away from the game altogether."

He opted to attend university while continuing to play hockey for the Bisons and head coach Wayne Fleming. He would credit this time away from big league hockey as a chance to grow up emotionally and be better prepared for professional hockey. He accepted his role as tough guy and defended his teammates with great pride.

In 1987 Grimson would turn pro, and play in the Calgary Flames minor league system. Over the next two seasons he accumulated 665 penalty minutes in just 109 games.

Those staggering penalty minute totals earn him a trail with the NHL Flames, who of course battled their provincial rivals from Edmonton with both pucks and fists. Grimson was called up, quickly solidifying his reputation as a feared NHL tough guy in a couple of showdowns with Edmonton's hulk Dave Brown. It wasn't easy though, as Brown fractured Grimson's cheek and orbital bones.

Grimson was ultimately returned to the minor leagues, but other teams took notice. The Chicago Blackhawks acquired the Reaper and he became a NHL regular.

Life with Chicago was never easy. The Hawks were in the old Norris Division, nicknamed the Chuck Norris Division with good reason. Grimson would become very well acquainted with Detroit's Bob Probert and Joey Kocur, Toronto's Wendel Clark and Ken Baumgartner, Minnesota's Shane Churla and Basil McRae and St. Louis' Tony Twist.

Grimson would play two seasons in Chicago before moving on to the expansion Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. He would bounce around the league a lot over the years, with stops in Hartford/Carolina, another stop in Anaheim, as well as games with Los Angeles and Nashville. Over the years he was probably involved in 100s of fights. His last came against Edmonton's Georges Laraque, who ended The Reaper's career by dealing him a severe concussion.

Stu Grimson played in 729 wars, scoring just 17 goals and 39 points. He was not much of a player with or without the puck, often stapled to the bench as his hulking size made him a clumsy and slow player. But he earned everyone's respect, both on and off the ice. He became very involved with the Players' Association as he used this outlet to satisfy his interests in business.

Grimson on Bob Probert - "A very good fighter. Great with both hands. A very busy fighter, I have a lot of respect for him."

Grmson on Tony Twist - "Heavier hitter than Bob. A very good fighter. He's a real threat, very effective at setting you up and getting his right hand free. I respected him very much."


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