The Stanley Cup Final begins Monday in Boston, with the Bruins hosting the St. Louis Blues, and Stu Grimson will be one of the on-site analysts for NHL Network, appearing on NHL Now (4 p.m. Eastern daily throughout the Final) and NHL Tonight (live before and after every game). But that’s not his only job, as he’s also balancing corporate counsel work at THIRDHOME and business development work at Mobilitie.
Grimson (seen at center above, with Jamison Coyle and Ken Daneyko) played in the NHL from 1989 to 2002 and has been doing some analysis since then, first doing radio and TV work for the Nashville Predators and then joining NHL Network in September 2017. But following his playing career, he also went back to school at 37, finishing his undergraduate degree at Nashville’s Belmont University and then completing law school at the University of Memphis. And he’s held legal jobs since then as well, including a stint as the NHL Players’ Association’s in-house counsel and work for Nashville firm Kay, Griffin, Enkema & Brothers. The work he now does with THIRDHOME and Mobilite is in addition to his NHLN work, and he told Awful Announcing while it was challenging to balance law and NHL analysis at first, it’s become much easier over time.
“I’ve taken on these different roles and I wear these different hats by choice, but at the core, I really want to do everything I do with integrity. So I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t think I could do that. It took a little while to find the balance, but I think I’m in a pretty good spot, I’m in a much better rhythm just in terms of ‘When is it time to take the hockey hat off and put the lawyer suit on?’ It becomes a little more seamless and natural as time goes on.”
Grimson said his decision to head back to school at 37 was because he wasn’t sure there was a future for him in the hockey world.
“I knew there was going to be a period of time after I left the game where it would take me a while to figure out what I wanted to do in life after hockey. So I just decided for a guy like me, who was kind of a ham-and-eggs fourth-line left winger his whole career, it would probably behoove me to get some letters after my name, enhance my marketable skills. So I decided I’ll finish off my undergraduate degree and and even take the additional step of getting a graduate degree in the law.”
He said his legal degree and experience has proved beneficial to his NHL analysis, too.
“And no regrets for having done it, especially with the graduate degree in the law and the professional experience of having litigated and worked as a lawyer for years. The experience in that background has benefited me in terms of the way I analyze, the way I think analytically, and it just opened up a world of professional opportunities for me. So I’m very grateful that I chose the path that I did, and I recommend it for just about any athlete out there.”
So, with a law degree and significant work in that field already, why did Grimson head into broadcasting?
“It’s a great question; I was the guy that as I left the game was thinking ‘Broadcasting is the last place I will ever end up. It’s not for me. The guys that do it, they follow the game morning, noon, and night, they eat, breathe, and sleep hockey, and I kind of thought that I don’t know if I’ve followed the game with quite that same passion. But what I’ve learned since I retired from the game is I really do enjoy it, more than I ever thought I did. And the Predators offered me kind of a part-time radio position while I was practicing law in Nashville; I didn’t travel with the team so I could do it right alongside of practicing law. And then, lo and behold, I jumped into it.”
He said while the broadcasting world wasn’t initially something he thought he wanted to join, he wound up loving it.
“I started doing it for a while, I’m going ‘Oh my gosh, I really enjoy this. You know, it’s a lot of fun to jump on the air and to use my past experiences as a player to talk about what I’m seeing happen in front of my eyes on the ice.’ I really enjoyed it more than I ever thought I would. So when the Predators came along and took the next step which was to offer me the full-time television job, it was kind of like ‘Well, I think this might be a great spot for me to end up.’ And, you know, the rest is history, and I of course said yes.”
But Grimson said heading to NHLN has been even better for him than covering one team.
“I’ve really enjoyed it. I really prefer what I’m doing now. Just comparing it to what I did formerly with the Predators and covering just one team, as much as I enjoyed working for one team, covering one team and really getting to know their story, on a live broadcast when you’re providing color commentary, it’s hard to jump in and out and provide a lot of meaningful analysis at the same time.”
“On the network, number one during production, we as analysts are really encouraged to contribute our thoughts and ideas towards every show we’re involved in. And then number two, once we jump on air, our producers just give us all kinds of latitude to talk about stuff that we as ex-players and analysts find really interesting. I absolutely love the format, I love the people I work with, they’re all absolute pros, and the best way to describe it for me is that it’s just a really good fit. I really enjoy it.”
Here’s a clip of Grimson doing an on-ice demo with Scott Braun and Alex Tanguay, discussing the skill of the Bruins’ David Pastrňák:
Grimson is excited to get the chance to cover the Final on the ground for NHLN for the first-time. They’ll be doing over 70 hours of live programming on-site from Boston and St. Louis during the Final, starting with Sunday’s media day. Grimson will join fellow analysts Mike Rupp, E.J. Hradek, Brian Lawton, Barry Melrose and Kevin Weekes, along with hosts and reporters Jamison Coyle, Tony Luftman and Jackie Redmond on-site. They’ll appear on NHL Now and NHL Tonight starting at 4:00 p.m. ET on Monday for Game 1 and continuing for the duration of the Stanley Cup Final. Grimson said being on-site should bring extra perspective and insight to their coverage.
“I’m thrilled that the powers that be here have the confidence in me to represent the game and the network well, offering me this opportunity. As much as I love this studio work, when you’re not there on the ground with a team day-in day-out, it’s the real kind of detailed and nuanced stories. Being in the appropriate city during the Final, you’re a little closer to the action and I like that. There’s more to discuss and more to tease out or unpack for our viewers.”
As part of his NHL Network work, Grimson also gets to do some interviews with various players. Here’s him talking to Gigi Marvin of the U.S. national women’s hockey team:
Grimson has an unusual background next to many NHL players, as he went from junior (with the Regina Pats) to Canadian university hockey (with the University of Manitoba) to the International Hockey League (with the Salt Lake Golden Eagles) before first making the NHL in 1988-89 with the Calgary Flames. He said that background of coming up through the ranks and playing depth roles for many NHL teams gives him a unique perspective as an analyst.
“To the untrained eye or to the uneducated eye, it looks like all five guys are just whizzing around out there and they all play the same position. But the truth of the matter is they all have very different responsibilities. And the broadcasting world is full of lots of guys that have been high-end talent during their careers, but I think it adds a little more texture to the fabric if guys like me, who for the majority of their careers filled those lesser, more-specific roles of providing a physical spark or killing penalties or doing some of the the unsung things, I think it takes a unique perspective, maybe one that comes out of my playing background, to really talk about that.”
“And these playoffs, I think it’s probably a better lesson in that than really any stretch of the game we’ve seen so far. I think the people in the game are realizing if you look at a club like Boston just how important those depth guys can be on your roster. So, you know, what better analyst to speak to the nuances of depth than a guy who was kind of a depth player.”
But he was quite the depth player, one who was part of a lot of great teams. And he got tagged with the “Grim Reaper” nickname, which he said his mom isn’t a big fan of.
“Of course I’ve been aware of it because it’s been around since my junior days, going back to the time when I was a seventeen-year-old boy playing junior hockey in Regina, Saskatchewan. I’ve never been one to really promote it, but I’ve never been one to really try to distance myself from it. You know, there’s kind of an adage or a theme in hockey, the harder you resist a nickname or try to brand yourself with a nickname, the less likely it is to stick or have it removed. I know my mom would just assume and prefer that everybody forgot about it. I mean, who wants to be wants to be given credit for
having raised the Grim Reaper?”
Grimson also fought 211 times during his NHL career. Fighting’s trending down significantly in the NHL these days, but he said he’s fine with that, and he thinks the limited fighting that still exists has purpose.
“It’s not really that the NHL really legislated it out or banned it from existence. It’s just kind of over time with the other rule changes, the fighting aspect has just kind of become more marginal as time has gone on. I don’t see that as necessarily a bad thing, because I think it still exists in the game for what I refer to as more tactical purposes.”
“The thing that I really like about fighting today is that if my team is kind of flat, we’ve come out of the gate, we’re not playing well, maybe we get behind a goal or two, but if I come out and I engage somebody on the other side, I square off with somebody on the other side, if I do that on my team’s behalf in that circumstance, it will never cease to amaze me that will create a spark and a momentum change in the game more times than not. It can energize my bench, if I’m doing that at home it can often energize the home crowd. And for players, coaches, fans, everybody involved, it’s a pretty exciting moment in a game.”
“And I think it illustrates one of the great things about our game; how fast, how fierce, and how physical it is. So again it’s kind of like while there is less fighting today, it still exists. And I like the way it exists.”
While Grimson didn’t score a lot during his career (he recorded 17 goals and 22 assists in 729 regular-season games, and one goal and one assist in 42 playoff games), his playoff goal still stands out in his memory.
“One of my favorite moments was in the Western Conference Final in 1995. My Detroit Red Wings were playing against the Chicago Blackhawks, and in Game Three we were down by a goal playing in Chicago, and [head coach] Scotty Bowman threw me out on the ice in the middle stages of the game when we were trailing. I hadn’t played a lot up to that point, and to be honest with you, I was a little bit surprised that Scotty threw me out there. But as soon as he did we had a scoring chance, kind of a line rush, but we got called offside.”
“Scotty left us out there and we face off again, and the same type of scoring chance, a two-on-one, is starting to form right after this other previous attempt. Ultimately it ends up in Tim Taylor, my linemate, makes a great pass to me and I bank home the game-tying goal past Eddie Belfour, my ex-teammate. And we go on to win that game and then by game five, ultimately go on to win the series. Guys like me don’t get a chance to score goals like that very often and it remains one of the truly notable memories in my playing days.”
Meanwhile, as for the present day, Grimson said he thinks the run the Blues have been on is an incredible moment.
“One of the the greatest stories this year and I almost liken it to, on a smaller scale, it’s a little bit like the magic that the Las Vegas Golden Knights were able to to generate last year. St. Louis was so bad in the start of the regular season this year, the first half of the season, when many of us anticipated that they would be a contender if not a favorite. So January third, lo and behold, the St. Louis Blues are in last place in the Western Conference. And I think even league-wide in last place. And the fact that they turned around the way that they did, to me it’s been one of the remarkable stories of the 2019 season for sure.”