Mike Grier, who spent 14 seasons in the NHL as a spunky right-winger, was named general manager of the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday, becoming the first black general manager in the history of a league that just ended. its 105th season.
Grier, 47, who retired as a player in 2011, comes to the team after working as a scout for Chicago and spending two years as an assistant coach with the Devils. Last season, he worked as a hockey operations advisor for the Rangers, reporting to team president and general manager Chris Drury, who played with Grier at Boston University and with the Buffalo Sabres.
Grier comes from a family of accomplished athletes. His older brother, Chris, has been the Miami Dolphins’ general manager since 2016, and his father, Bobby, was an NFL running back and coach for the New England Patriots before taking front office positions with the Miami Dolphins. Patriots, Houston Texans. and Dolphins.
“The main thing my dad instilled in us was work ethic,” Mike Grier said at a news conference in San Jose, Calif. when we were ready to go to bed. He stayed up until all hours doing scouting, whatever needed to be done.
The hiring is a milestone for the NHL, where black players make up a small minority of league rosters and hold few front-office positions.
Grier said he hopes his nomination 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 my best for the San Jose organization, and if I do that, I hope it opens the door for other minorities to fill front-office positions.”
When Grier entered the league with the Edmonton Oilers in the 1996-97 season, he would have been the first American born and raised African American player 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 weighed 225 pounds during his playing days, played hockey at St. Sebastian’s School Prep in Needham, Mass., and was selected in the ninth round of the 1993 draft , 219th overall, by the St. Louis Blues. That fall, when Brashear was playing his first games with the Montreal Canadiens, Grier arrived at Boston University as an extra.
In his sophomore year, Grier was one of the leading scorers on the BU National Championship team playing on the front line, while Drury was a freshman on the fourth line. Grier started his professional career with Edmonton and worked with the Washington Capitals, Sabers and Sharks.
Jonathan Becher, president of Sharks Sports and Entertainment, the franchise’s parent company, said Drury’s comments played a big part in the team’s selection, as did this year’s rebound from Rangers, who reached the Eastern Conference Finals.
“Chris has known Mike for a long time and gave Mike a strong endorsement as GM,” Becher said. “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 manager,” Drury 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 years in a row, the longest playoff drought in the franchise’s 30-year history.
The Sharks fired coach Bob Boughner last week. Grier replaces Joe Will, who served as interim general manager following the departure of Doug Wilson in April.
Grier said he has no timeline for appointing a coach and is immediately focused on the NHL Draft, which begins Thursday in Montreal. San Jose has the No. 11 pick overall. The Sharks have a roster loaded with aging stars — including defensemen Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic — who have big contracts that could limit San Jose’s ability to sign free agents.
The team’s top two scorers last season were Timo Meier and Tomas Hertl, who netted 35 and 30 goals. Meier is 25 and Hertl 27.
Grier said he doesn’t want a complete team overhaul.
“I’m not going to tear down the roster,” he said. “For us there may be a few bumps in the road, but we will try to improve and improve the alignment every day.”