Recently, I had the chance to interview former NHL enforcer, Stu Grimson. Stu was awesome. . We talked about warm-up music, why you should be careful about who you heckle, Tim Tebow, Stu’s new nickname, and a lot more. Enjoy the interview, and if you don’t like it, tell ME. Stu can probably still kick your ass.
So what was your favorite part about playing in the NHL?
Stu- Favorite part about playing in the NHL? Well, it sure wasn’t getting my tail handed to me on a regular basis, it wasn’t that. You know, the culture as much as anything. I really enjoyed the people. It’s a great way to make a living and it (The NHL) really seems to draw positive genuine people to it. That’s one thing that I look back on and miss the most.
I agree. I think that the majority of NHL fans are diehards, which I appreciate
Stu- Yeah, it’s a sport that really genuinely attracts people who play it, manage it, coach it, and follow it. It just attracts people that I really enjoyed being around.
So, you were a big enforcer way back when. Have you ever turned down a fight because you knew that you’d pummel the guy? Also have you ever been really nervous going into a fight?
Stu- Well, let me answer the second question first. I think I was nervous going into just about every fight I had. If I wasn’t nervous it probably meant that I was fighting in a fit of rage, which wasn’t true of most of my fights. I really was one of those guys, I mean, I had genuine fear just about every time I dropped the gloves, and certainly when it was with someone my size. Your first question, did I ever turn down a fight? There were plenty that I avoided, and it was usually for this reason. I knew the other guy was in bad shape, and it just wasn’t fair to him on that given night that we tangle, so I laid off.
I see a lot of fighters get to the box, and they’re jawing with one another. How many times is it encouragement and respect, and how often is it insults?
Stu- You know what, that’s a good question, that’s one I’ve never been asked before. I’d say it’s kind of a mix of both, and for me, maybe half and half. For a guy like me, Probert was my most frequent combatant, and Probie and I would usually have words about the way a particular fight went. Usually conversations with him were out of respect for one another. Sometimes though, you get into a fight where you feel somebody took a cheap shot at you or maybe they feel the same about you, and maybe there’s some tension. But I would say the first category is more frequent, respect.
Have you ever had to teach a teammate how to fight?
Stu- Yeah, there’s lots of guys over the years that wanted a tip or two. It wasn’t so much that you’re mentoring another enforcer, because rarely do those types of guys end up on the same team together. But a lot of times you’d have a smaller teammate that got into a tangle from time to time, and he wanted some tips or some things to work into his repertoire to help him out. So, that came up sometimes, yeah.
Do players pay any attention to fans that are banging on the glass during a fight or a scrum, or is it totally ignored?
Stu- Well, if you’re the guy involved in the scrap you probably don’t pay much attention to it; you probably don’t even notice it. You might hear the roar or tone of the crowd in a general way, but I never did hear much specific noise coming from any particular fan while I was engaged. It’s a different story if you’re the one watching the fight, or standing back and observing.
Have you ever seen anything funny while standing back and observing?
Stu- We were playing Winnipeg one year, when I was in Detroit, and my wife is from Winnipeg. We spent our summers there, so I knew lots of people in the community. I had worked with this one particular real estate agent buying our house the previous summer. So we’re in there and the Red Wings and Jets are getting into it for some reason, there was a big scrape going on, on the ice, and a bunch of fans behind the bench started shouting at the red wings bench. I looked around, did a double take, and there’s the stinkin’ real estate agent that I worked with last summer giving it to me and the rest of my buddies on the bench! So I pointed at him and said hey you! I know you! And he kind of backpedaled right away, it was hilarious. Also, I was a Blackhawk in the early 90’s and Denny Vial played for the Red Wings. We got into it on the ice and it was kind of a humorous situation. We were going toe to toe, Denny was a really tough guy, and there was a pause in the fight, a stick came between us. I pointed down at the stick figuring there’s no way Denny would look, since it’s more of a distraction than anything. I point down at the stick, and sure enough his head drops to look at the stick, so I was able to smoke him with an upper cut with the right hand. You can see it on the tape pretty clearly, it was pretty funny.
When you go out for the pre-game skate, if the pump up music is crappy, does it affect the intensity that a team comes out of the gate with?
Stu- That’s a great question, let me answer that a couple of ways. In a general sense, it doesn’t take away from the play of either team if the music is really lousy. To your point though, it sure doesn’t add to the intensity of the game either. Warm up is a real key time, you’re getting your body going, and you’re getting your body warmed up. You’re trying to charge your adrenaline and charge the electricity in terms of how you and your team are about to play. I see these guys today, think about Drew Doughty. Before the game starts he’s out there banging into his teammates, the music is going on, that’s all part of getting yourself prepped for that moment of competition that’s not too far away. So, the music is important, people don’t understand that. There was a specific situation I remember, I think I was with the L.A. Kings, maybe The Ducks; I can’t recall exactly who I was with. But I remember very specifically we went into St. Louis to play The Blues on one particular night, and I’m a huge Springsteen fan. All of the sudden the Blues warm up soundtrack comes on, and it’s Bruce Springsteen’s “Promised Land”, and I mean it just lit me up. I remember looking over at one of my teammates and going they have no idea what this does for me, (laughs) they’re playing right into my sweet spot here. So it was kind of funny, it was kind of a neat thing, but music is key, it’s a good point.
What is some of the worst trash talk you’ve heard on the ice?
Stu- You know what, I’m not going to name names, but I’ve heard some things that are completely off-sides, way outside of the bounds of good taste. I’ll tell you what; I’ve seen some people do some pretty crazy things when they got called what they got called. I was in Anaheim, and we were playing Detroit, and one of my Anaheim teammates made a comment to a guy on the other side who was with the Red Wings that clearly touched a nerve, and this guy went something short of berserk trying to get at my Mighty Duck teammate.
Who’s the funniest player you’ve played with on and off the ice?
Stu- Good question. There are some very humorous guys out there that I’ve played with over the years. I bet you that Mark Bergevin is probably one of the funniest guys I’ve ever played with; he was just a non-stop laugh track. He was just always up to something when we played. There was never a serious word that came out of his mouth.
That’s great. Well, I’ve done some research on you, and I found that you are a devout Christian, is that correct?
Stu- Yep, that’s right.
That being said, what do you think of Tim Tebow? When he prays on the field is it excessive? Is it blown out of proportion? Should people just let him be?
Well, you know, for me I think people probably make too much of an issue about it. I mean it’s a personal thing for him, and it’s a way of demonstrating his faith, and I think that’s purely and simply a personal choice for him. Now, for lots and lots of other Christians like myself, that’s just not a way that we choose to live, and or demonstrate our faith. But at the same time, I recognize that it’s a personal decision of his that I choose to respect. I don’t know Tim Tebow, and I’ve never had a chance to talk to him about that. I might really come to appreciate it and other people might come to appreciate why he does that if they got a chance to connect with him about that in a conversation.
Yeah, you have to appreciate that he doesn’t use the term “Tebowing” as a marketing tool, when he could probably make a lot of money off of that one pose.
Yeah, and I agree with that. And you know what, again, I don’t profess to know the man, or know very much about the man, but from everything I’ve ever heard about him he really seems very genuine as a person, and seems very genuine in his faith, and for me that’s enough. He chooses to demonstrate his faith in this particular way, and I just choose to respect that and give him his space.
Having played on a ton of teams, who are the best and worst fans in the league?
Well, I love the fans here in Nashville, they’re a very energetic and devout bunch, and they’re a group of fans that really understand and appreciate the game in a terrific way. I’ve seen this market improve a lot as a hockey market over time and I think the fans are an incredible part of that. Um, so I love the Nashville fans and I will say this at the same time, I had a chance, the honor really, of playing in Chicago for three years when we played out of the old Chicago Stadium, and that for me was one of the great memories, the great honors, of my career. In my estimation, there will never be another hockey venue like that; it was absolutely electric on even the most average of nights. It was a dark old building; it was a small old building with these balconies almost perched right over the ice and very close together. And they had this great old pipe organ, and of course they had some of the salt of the earth of the Midwest in these Chicagoans. They love their town, they love their teams, and they love their Blackhawks, it was just a cool, cool place to play.
As someone who grew up on Long Island, I see a lot of my Islander fan friends getting upset at not being able to lure big names to the island. One of their biggest complaints is that the team is being held back by a poor arena, As a player, how do things like that factor into your decision making when it comes to signing with a team?
For a player a lot of things come into play especially when you get to that point in your career when you’re an unrestricted free agent, and you have a direct say in where you go. You’re usually at a point where you’ve got a wife and you’ve got children, and you know, the community, the cost of living, the quality of the schools, all of these things go into your consideration. And more specifically, as a player you want to go somewhere where the hockey is great, where the building is great, and where the team has a chance to compete for the big prize. So there’s no question, some teams are definitely up against it in terms of being able to attract the great free agents out there.
Has there ever been a moment where you’ve almost cracked and started laughing while being berated by a coach?
(Laughs) That’s a great question. I was in Anaheim in the late 90’s and we had a coach, Craig Hartsburg, who was as tough as nails, probably as tough as I’ve ever played with. We were really an underachieving team, and there were lots and lots of nights where coach Hartsburg would come into the room and go through us player after player after player. He said some stuff that was, at times, downright hilarious. He was often very sarcastic, and the whole group is kind of trying to avoid making eye contact with itself, even the guys that are getting lambasted, because we would all scamper for the far corners of the locker room after coach Hartsburg was done ripping on us, and start laughing at each other, saying I cant believe he just called you what he called you! (laughs). There’s lot of light moments like that, but it makes the game worth playing. It can be bitter and cruel at the time, but I’ll tell you what, looking back, a lot of laughs.
My final question, your nickname used to be the grim reaper…
You know oddly enough, it still is Matt, that nickname still dogs me.
Well if you were to pick a name for Stu Grimson The Lawyer, what would it be?
It’s the Grim Reader. It’s no longer the Grim Reaper, it’s the Grim Reader.
This is the type of thing that your fans need to know, you’ve got to keep them updated.
Exactly right, my reaping days are long over; I’m a lawyer now. I spend the day reading correspondents and legal pleadings from other attorneys, and I read cases about other lawsuits. So my reaping days are over, and my reading days have begun, I’m the Grim Reader now.
That’s great. Well thanks a lot Stu, this was fun.
Hey Matt, I enjoyed it, take care.