Interview with the Grim Reaper, Stu Grimson

By Jeffrey Bartl

Former Chicago Blackhawks enforcer Stu Grimson took some time out from his current life working as a lawyer in Nashville to trade e-mails and answer a few questions about his time in Chicago, his career and the current state of the Blackhawks.

Stu Grimson has appeared on numerous all-time NHL goons lists since his retirement in 2002. Nicknamed the “Grim Reaper” because of his bloddy battles on the ice, Grimson racked up a whopping 2,113 penalty minutes in his 14 seasons with the Calgary Flames, Blackhawks, Anaheim Ducks, Detroit Red Wings, Hartford Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes, Los Angeles Kings and Nashville Predators.

Jeff Bartl: Your time in Chicago was brief, but can you describe some of your best experiences with the Blackhawks and what makes Chicago a great hockey town?

Stu Grimson: My fondest memories of Chicago relate to two things: the people and the pizza.  Blackhawk fans are the finest and I fondly recall how welcome they made me and my family feel in their great city; my time there truly was a pleasure.  Anytime I return to Chicago, my first priority is to get to Wells Street to sample the “Lou’s special” at Malnati’s.

JB: The run to the Stanley Cup Final with the Blackhawks had to be a great experience for you, as it was for all Blackhawks fans. Can you elaborate on that season and what made that team so special?

SG: What made that particular season special were a few different things.  First, this was a team that was coming off a very debilitating loss in the previous year.  We finished first and won the President’s Trophy the prior year only to lose out to the Minnesota North Stars in the first round.  So, we all had something to prove.  Second, this was a real caring and humble group.  This is one of my favorite teams in that regard. I have a lot of great memories regarding the high caliber of guys I was surrounded by that year.  Third, the amazing Chicago Stadium and the terrific fans that filled that place night after night made that team and that season a particularly special one.  There will never be another atmosphere as electric as that one in all of pro sports in my opinion.

JB: You were known as an enforcer throughout your career. What kind of mentality does an enforcer have on the ice?

SG: I find it hard to speak for other enforcers, but my mentality was as follows. I was always very sensitive to the physical momentum within a game. If I ever thought my team did not have an edge in that aspect of the game or if I thought we needed a lift, I would seize the opportunity to turn the momentum physically whether that meant a physical shift or getting into a scrape with someone on the other side.

JB: Are there any particular moments in your career that stand out to you, good or bad?

SG: One particular moment stands out to me, even after all of this time.  I suffered a very bad loss against a very imposing heavyweight by the name of Dave Brown early in my career.  I broke a cheekbone and my orbital bone in three places during that fight and I had to have facial reconstructive surgery to repair the damage.  That was a difficult set of circumstances to have to deal with, but I recall that being one of the greatest challenges of my career.  Once I was able to address that and overcome it, it actually provided me with a great deal of confidence going forward.  Are you familiar with the phrase, “Whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger”?

JB: The Blackhawks have drawn a lot of attention this off-season with the abrupt firing of Dale Tallon, the contract signing/investigation of Marian Hossa and the Patrick Kane arrest. How much do off-ice distractions play into the mentality of a team going into the season with such high expectations? Do you think these things could effect the Blackhawks more than normally because they are such a young team?

SG: The great thing about hockey players is that they are able to separate the on-ice from the off-ice and not let the latter distract them. Even though this is a younger team, it would seem to me that the 2009-2010 version of the Chicago Blackhawks will be able to start the season strong and gather momentum as it goes.  The future looks bright for that group.

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