The Sharks hire Mike Grier as the NHL’s first black general manager

Mike Grier, who spent 14 seasons in the NHL as a right winger, was named general manager of the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday, becoming the first black general manager in league history, having just completed his 105th season.

Grier, 47, who retired as a player in 2011, comes to the team after serving as a scout for Chicago and spending two years as an assistant coach with the Devils. Last season, he served as the Rangers’ hockey operations advisor, reporting to team president and general manager Chris Drury, who played with Grier at Boston University and the Buffalo Sabres.

Grier comes from a sporting family. His older brother, Chris, has been the general manager of the Miami Dolphins since 2016, and his father, Bobby, was an NFL player and coach for the New England Patriots before working in the front office for the Houston Texans. and dolphins.

“The main thing my dad instilled in us is work ethic,” Mike Grier said at a news conference in San Jose, California. “He went to work before we got up for school and sometimes didn’t come home until after lunch or dinner. When we were ready to go to bed. He would stay up all hours to scout what he had to do.”

The hiring is an important milestone for the NHL, where black players make up a small minority of league rosters and hold several front office positions.

Grier said he hopes his appointment will create opportunities for others.

“Since my playing days, the league itself has become more and more diverse and that’s something I’m happy to see,” he said. “My job is to do everything I can for the San Jose organization, and if I do that, hopefully that will open the door for other minorities to get the front office.”

When Grier entered the league with the Edmonton Oilers in the 1996-97 season, he was the first African-American player born and raised in the United States to play in the NHL. Florida-born Val James, who entered the league in 1981, and Donald Brashear, who was born in Indiana and made his NHL debut in 1993, both played junior hockey in Canada.

Grier, who was 6-foot-1 and 225 pounds in his playing days, played prep school hockey at St. Sebastian’s School in Needham, Mass. Lewis Blues. That fall, when Brashear was playing his first games with the Montreal Canadiens, Grier came to Boston University as a walk-on.

As a sophomore, Grier was the leading scorer on BU’s national championship team playing on the first line, while Drury was a freshman on the fourth line. Grier began his professional career in Edmonton and also played for the Washington Capitals, Sabers and Sharks.

Jonathan Becher, president of Sharks Sports and Entertainment, the franchise’s parent company, said Drury’s feedback was instrumental in the selection of the team, as well as the Rangers’ climb to the Eastern Conference finals this year.

“Chris has known Mike for a long time and has expressed his strong support for Mike as general manager,” said Becher. “Mike has this strength of character. Mike is a leader.”

“I have had the privilege of knowing Mike for three decades and have the utmost respect for him as a person, player and executive,” Dury said in a statement. “I can’t wait to see what he does with the Sharks.”

Grier joins a franchise in transition: San Jose reached the Western Conference Finals in 2019, but has since missed the playoffs three straight years, the longest playoff drought in the franchise’s 30-year history.

The Sharks fired coach Bob Bogner last week. Grier replaces Joe Will, who served as interim general manager following the resignation of Doug Wilson in April.

Grier said he had no timetable for naming a coach and was immediately focused on the NHL draft, which begins Thursday in Montreal. San Jose has the No. 11 overall pick. The Sharks have a roster of aging stars, including guards Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who are under big contracts that could limit San Jose’s ability to sign free agents.

Last season, the team’s two best scorers were Timo Meier and Tomas Hertl, who scored 35 and 30 goals. Meyer is 25 and Hertl is 27.

Grier said he is not looking for a complete overhaul of the team.

“I’m not going to take down the list,” he said. “For us, there might be a few bumps ahead, but we’re going to try to improve and improve the roster every day.”

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