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Mike Grier becomes the first black general manager in NHL history

SAN JOSE, Calif. — The San Jose Sharks’ three-month search for a general manager ended with a breakthrough hire as the team made longtime NHL forward Mike Grier the first black general manager in league history.

“It means a lot to me,” Grier said during his introductory press conference Tuesday. “It’s not something I take lightly. I realize that there is a responsibility that comes with the territory. But I’m in. How I behave and how this organization behaves, I think we will do well and hopefully we will leave an imprint and open doors for people to follow.

Grier fills the position that opened up when Doug Wilson stepped down for health reasons on April 7. Wilson had taken a leave of absence in November and Joe Will had since filled the interim position.

Team president Jonathan Becher said Grier came from a pool of dozens of candidates because of his experience as a player, scout, coach and executive over the past decades and his commitment to building a winning culture in San Jose.

But he also acknowledged the historic nature of the rental.

“I hope you inspire a lot of people and I hope you’re the first and definitely not the last,” Becher told Grier.

Grier spent three of his 14 NHL seasons with the Sharks from 2006 to 2009. He retired in 2011 after playing 1,060 career games and spent time as a scout in Chicago, an assistant coach in New Jersey and, most recently, hockey operations advisor for the New York Rangers, where he was given numerous assistant responsibilities. general director.

The hiring comes less than a week after Will announced head coach Bob Boughner and three of his assistants would not return next season. Will said he took the step two months after the end of the season to give the new general manager a clean slate.

Grier has a tough job in San Jose trying to rebuild a team that missed the playoffs for three straight seasons for the first time in franchise history.

Grier will need to get to work quickly, dealing with the draft on Thursday and Friday, the start of free agency next week and the need to hire a coaching staff and beef up the front office.

Grier said the draft and free agency are the immediate priorities as well as trying to create more salary cap flexibility if possible before turning to the search for coaches.

“I just think it’s a challenge to try to get everything in order as quickly as possible, but still do it the right way and be thorough,” he said. “It’s a challenge, but all I’m looking forward to.”

Grier said he wasn’t interested in tearing the team down and doing a full rebuild, but acknowledged it might take a step back to move forward.

San Jose has plenty of high-priced veterans on the roster and could consider trading defensemen Brent Burns or Erik Karlsson or buying out defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic to create more flexibility.

“It’s definitely a balance,” Grier said. “I don’t want to get ahead of myself and be the kid in a candy store and say, ‘I can go get this. I can go get this. We need to be patient and stick to the vision we believe in and not rush things. I think we’re going to chart a course and stay the course and not rush anything and get ahead of ourselves and end up digging a hole that we can’t get out of in the future.

Grier comes from a family of successful sports executives. His brother, Chris, is general manager of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins, and his father, Bobby, was a longtime coach and front office manager for the New England Patriots and Houston Texans.

Grier said he had been preparing for this new role since he was around 10 years old during discussions he had with his brother and father.

“Growing up, we talked about the challenges of making lists and things like that over dinner,” he said. “I would like to talk about football, they would like to talk about hockey. I rely on them a lot. They have a different perspective because of the sport, but I lean on them a lot and trust their input.

The NHL has emphasized diversity, with several women also getting opportunities in leadership positions and on the coaching staff.

The Arizona Coyotes announced Tuesday that Kelsey Koelzer and Kori Cheverie will serve as coaches under head coach Andre Tourigny during the team’s development program next week.

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