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Wednesday, 15 February 2012 15:29

Former NHL tough guy visits Swift Current Broncos

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By Matthew Liebenberg — This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
During his NHL hockey career he was known as the “Grim Reaper” for being a top fighter, but his message off the ice has been one of peace.

Stu Grimson, who accumulated more than 2,000 penalty minutes during his WHL and NHL career between 1982 and 2002, found strength in the Christian faith during his years as a well-respected enforcer.

He visited Swift Current last weekend to attend the Broncos game against the Regina Pats on Feb. 11 as a guest of the Broncos Chaplaincy Program. The following morning he also met with the team.

“For me it was a tremendous transformation in my life,” he said about his faith. “I don’t know if I could have gone on to play a substantial career in professional hockey were it not for that important kind of spiritual reconnection for me.”

Grimson, who spoke to the Prairie Post after the Broncos game, said he enjoys the opportunity to visit and speak to teams about the importance of faith.

“My experience has always been very positive any time I’ve done this,” he said.

His message during such visits is simply one of finding freedom in faith.

“I tell them there’s a great deal of peace and a great deal of liberty in being able to come to a place in your live where you realize there is a creator,” he said. “He is responsible for the consequences of your life and when you place your faith in Him there’s great freedom in that.”

He studied law after retiring from hockey and is currently practising with a law firm in Nashville. He has been a member of the board of directors and a player advisory board member for Hockey Ministries International since 1998.

Grimson never felt his role as an on-ice tough guy was a contradiction of his faith.

To him, it was just a physical element of the sport, but he also had no problem to view it as part of what a Christian can be.

“I always felt why can’t it be a Christian in the role of protector, in the role of watching out for the smaller people, making it easier for the smaller, more skilled players to play,” he said. “I think a Christian can play that role. I never had any problem with that.”

According to a quote that has been attributed to him, he said “Jesus was no wimp” during an interview.

Grimson laughed when asked about what he meant with that.

“I’ve seen that too and I don’t know if I ever said that,” he noted. “But I think the point is that Christ, when he saw things were out of order, was very quick to speak or to act in that situation.”

He referred to the example of Jesus’ actions in the temple, where He used a whip to drive the money changers away.

“There are elements of the role of an enforcer, where you have to act, where you have to be very deliberate,” he said. “I suppose if I said that, that was the point I was trying to make.”

The sudden death of three NHL enforcers — Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien and Wade Belak — in the summer of 2011 resulted in a lot of discussion about the role of that position in the game.

Grimson said some statements about links between being an enforcer and cases of drug abuse and depression were unfair.

“We all, whether we’re lawyers, doctors, hockey enforcers or starting pitchers in the major leagues of baseball, have these pressures, the anxieties in our lives that we have to cope with,” he said. “I don’t accept that the role of enforcer was the reason in each of these cases that their lives ended tragically and terribly early.”

There has been calls to eliminate the role of enforcer from the game as part of an effort to improve safety and reduce injuries, but Grimson disagrees. He supports efforts to reduce blows to the head of an unsuspecting player, but he considers the role of an enforcer to be one of the measures to eliminate concussions.

The first two measures are the presence of a referee on the ice and supplementary discipline through a suspension. He referred to the role of an enforcer as the third way to have accountability on the ice.

“The enforcer is one tool in a basket of few where I think it helps you to crack down on this area,” he said. “I think if you took it away you might find that some of these deliberate blows to the head might increase in frequency.”

He considered statements made last October by Don Cherry about former hockey enforcers to be in the past. He had no personal contact with Cherry since that incident, but he knows what he will do if they ever meet somewhere.

“I would shake his hand and I would probably, if he was interested, speak my peace again,” he said. “But I would tell him in person that I accept his apology.”

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