Originally posted on Fox Sports Tennessee  |  Last updated 10/11/11
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Stu Grimson is still scratching his head as to how he got involved in this controversy. CBC commentator Don Cherry, during one of his infamous rants on Hockey Night in Canada's "Coach's Corner," lumped Grimson in with fellow former NHL enforcers Chris Nilan and Jim Thomson, calling them "pukes" and, in essence, put the words in their mouths, they want to take fighting out of the NHL because being an enforcer leads to chemical addiction. The thing is, Grimson never said that. Nor does the Nashville lawyer, part-time Predators radio analyst and retired NHL player think that fighting should be removed from the NHL. "I really can't figure it out," said Grimson, reached via phone on Tuesday from his law office. "I've gone back through some of the recent articles and, certainly, I'm quoted in articles that deal with these issues, but for the life of me I can't figure out where he's taken the position that I, one, am anti-fighting and, two, am somebody that has said that the life of an enforcer leads to a life of addiction or was somehow the cause of death with respect to these three guys. "In fact, I was quite the opposite. As to the second issue, I found it objectionable that people were trying to make the leap that the role had something to do with all of the deaths of these three guys. I came out strong and early about that." The three players whom Grimson referenced were Rick Rypien of Winnipeg, Derek Boogaard of the New York Rangers and -- the one that hit closest to home in Nashville -- Wade Belak of the Predators. Grimson, in fact, traded time in the radio booth last season with Belak after Belak retired. All three, it has been reported, had battled depression and all three died suddenly over a matter of weeks earlier this year. Rypien and Boogaard were known to have issues with alcohol or drugs. The link has yet to be made conclusively that the role of an enforcer results in addiction, or in depression. For being defamed in the public way that Grimson, Nilan and Thomson were -- and for what they perceived as Cherry's insufficient apology; he only took back the word "pukes" in a subsequent commentary -- the group issued a statement from Grimson's law firm on Tuesday saying they would pursue "further recourse." "The group is very unhappy with Don's comments and even his subsequent attempt to qualify them," Grimson said. "Certainly, it wasn't an attempt to retract them, so we're really at the stage where we're reviewing what further recourse, if any." Grimson practices defense law and civil litigation with some family and domestic law. He said at the moment the three former players are investigating the differences between U.S. and Canadian law in terms of libel and defamation. The statement called Cherry's comments "slanderous." "We'll have a better sense of that hopefully in the next couple of while," Grimson said. To a degree, the CBC has attempted to distance itself somewhat from Cherry's comments. Grimson was asked if it were time for the CBC to part ways with the outrageous ways of the 77-year-old Cherry, whose segment is highly rated and one of Canada's best known figures. "Well, here's the thing I've always said: There's going to come a time when he says something that puts The Corporation in a position where it has to make a decision like that," Grimson said. "I don't profess to know whether this is that issue or not, but it just might be. I have to believe number one, with the game, the way the game is changing, is evolving and, number two, with, kind of I guess, he's towards the twilight of his career. Perhaps this is the moment in time when The Corporation excuses our aging Uncle Don." The great irony is that Grimson, who earned 2,113 penalty minutes during his career, stands accused of being a hypocrite for wanting to remove fighting from the NHL -- a position that Grimson does not hold. "I understand the arguments on both side of the issue," Grimson said. "I appreciate that there's a concern for head trauma that these guys, enforcers, and everybody else is absorbing and the effects. I understand why we're having the debate. At the end of the day, I think I come down on the side of keeping it in the game because, number one, it acts as a deterrent for the very things we're trying to eliminate: Head hits to vulnerable players... If you don't have a guy like me on the roster most nights, the other team will play you differently. If you don't have a (Bob) Probert or a Nilan or a (Georges) Laraque in the lineup most nights, the other team is going to play you differently. "And... I think there's an important distinction to be made in the area of the enforcer. This guy has a pretty good idea as to what the risks are if he suffers a blow to the head and he steps into that role and engages the fight knowing the risks. He accepts those risks and that's not necessarily true of the vulnerable player, the person who's hit by a deliberate blow that he doesn't see coming." Grimson has a long history with the NHLPA. He served as executive vice president and on its executive board. From 2006 to 2007, he worked as In-House Counsel to the PA in its Toronto office. He was asked what role the PA should take in terms of improving player safety. "I think that really goes to the heart of the discussion," he said. "...I think the league and the PA hand-in-hand can continue. I think they've done a pretty good job at looking at this area. I think they can continue to explore other reasonable measures to make it safer, to make the environment safer, for players to play this game. However, having said that, the game is inherently physical by nature. Unless you're talking about pulling contact out of the sport all together -- and even then you're never going to eliminate blows to the head -- I think you have to operate from the platform or from the starting point: You're always going to have head trauma, how can we introduce reasonable measures to prevent as much as possible? "I think the chief, the key area, really, is this one of deliberate blows to the head as a point of contact primarily -- to an unsuspecting player." With respect to Cherry, Grimson said he took the criticism very personally because of the role he performed as a player. "When he gets in there and starts making all these really disparaging and reckless comments that he did, it got my attention, no question," Grimson said. "As it did with respect to Jim and Chris." He does not seem as if he will go away quietly.
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