Photo credit: Amanda Cain / San Jose Sharks

Mike Grier Hired as First Black NHL GM 

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9 mins read

On July 5, 2022, two days before the NHL Entry Draft, the San Jose Sharks made a move that was a long time coming. They hired Mike Grier as the general manager (GM). Grier is the first ever black GM in NHL history. He had a long NHL career, which is rare, but he beat the odds, and perhaps that was just the beginning of what was to come. 

Grier’s Playing Career 

Grier’s NHL career spanned 14 seasons. The fact he even made it to the NHL was unlikely. Not only because of the color of his skin but because he was a ninth round draft pick. However, he defied the odds and had a longer career than most who play the game.  

Grier was drafted by the St. Louis Blues, although he never played a game with the organization. He got his first shot at the NHL level with the Edmonton Oilers and subsequently played with four other teams, including the Sharks. His playing style could be described as a power forward. He made hits, could score the occasional goal and surpassed the 1,000-game milestone.  The 6-foot-1, 224-pound Grier, who was born in Detroit, MI, scored 162 goals and had 221 assists in 1,060 games. 

Grier’s Post Playing Career 

In his post-playing career, Grier worked as a professional scout for the Chicago Blackhawks from 2014-18 and was an assistant coach for the New Jersey Devils from 2018-20. Most recently, he worked for the New York Rangers as a hockey operations advisor who assists the team make hockey-related decisions on and off the ice as well as helping with player development.  

Rangers’ president and GM Chris Drury said this about Grier, “I have had the privilege of knowing Mike for nearly three decades, and I have always had the utmost respect for him as a person, player and executive,” Drury said. “I am proud to call him a friend and I look forward to seeing what he’ll do with the Sharks. We will miss him in New York, but we wish him and his family all the best with this new opportunity.” Grier and Drury were teammates at Boston University in the mid-90s. 

Sharks Were Looking & Grier Was The Right Choice 

When Sharks GM Doug Wilson stepped down after 19 seasons on April 7, they began looking for a replacement. They did their diligence and found an ex-Shark that was a great fit. Grier played for them from 2006-09 and made a lasting impression upon the organization that helped him land the job.  

Grier made this statement shortly after getting the news, “Really excited to work and to be back in the Bay Area,” he said. “I know there’s been lots of ups and downs but I’m ready to work hard and get at it and get this thing back on the tracks. We’re going to start winning some games in the “Shark Tank” and get it going again. See you soon.” 

Sharks president Jonathan Becher had this to say after hiring Grier, “While we were intrigued and appreciative of many candidates, especially those that ended up being the finalists, Mike separated himself from the pack by his continued commitment to culture.” Becher said, “Culture, not just on the ice, but off the ice as well. Mike is a true testament to one of our organization’s principles, and that is say what you mean, and then do what you say.” 

Becher also said this during a press conference announcing the Sharks’ new GM; Grier emerged from a pool of dozens of candidates because of his experience as a player, scout, coach and executive over the last few decades and his commitment to building a winning culture in San Jose. He then said to Grier, “I hope you do serve as an inspiration to lots of people and that I hope you’re the first and certainly not the last.”

The talent to be a GM runs in the family; Grier’s older brother Chirs is an NFL GM for the Miami Dolphins, and had this to say, “I am incredibly proud of Mike. The San Jose Sharks organization is getting a man of high character and integrity. He has always been respected on and off the ice by his peers.” 

Chris went on, “Mike will bring his work ethic and passion every day to the job. Mike understands the game, with intelligence, experience and knowledge to succeed as a GM. Our parents deserve all the credit for how they raised us. We were very fortunate to be able to observe and learn from our father, Bobby, while growing up. Congratulations to Mike and the San Jose Sharks on a great hire!” 

Grier’s father Bobby played running back for the Iowa Hawkeyes and went on to hold positions such as VP of player personnel with the New England Patriots, Associate Director of Pro Scouting and senior personnel advisor with the Houston Texans. He now works as a consultant with the Dolphins.

What’s Next for Grier & the Sharks? 

His first order of business was to tend to the entry draft two days after he was hired. Then, the NHL’s free agency period began, which started on July 13. He handled those tasks appropriately, and now he has to hire a new coach.  

He did speak on the direction of the organization moving forward. Grier said, “We’re not looking to tear this down, like Arizona (Coyotes) or some teams have done in the past. Yes, there are some challenges with the (NHL) salary cap, but I think the majority of the League is dealing with the flat cap and they have the [same] issue. So for us, we’re not looking to rebuild … there are a lot of ‘R’ words you could use. For us, there might be a few bumps in the road ahead and we might have to step back a little bit to go forward, but we’re going to try and get better and try to make the roster better.” 

He continued, “I think we can improve in every facet, to be honest with you. There are some pieces on the roster that we like, that we would like to build around. But I think, overall, there’s not one spot in particular that I think needs work. The draft is No. 1, then we’ve got free agency coming up. We’ll have to dig into that, and Joe (Joe Will-Asst. GM) and I have already started on that a bit. Then development camp and a coach.” 

Grier has proven successful in every facet of his life and it’s clear he’s the right man for the job in San Jose. He’s got the character, work ethic, and respect from his peers that it takes to turnaround an organization and lead them into the future.

 

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