Grimson ducks fighting debate

PAUL FRIESEN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:07 AM ET

Imagine the yarns someone like Stu Grimson could spin.

One of the NHL's most feared fighters not so long ago, Grimson is the featured speaker at the University of Manitoba Bison hockey fundraising dinner, next Monday.

I can see it now: Tales From the NHL's Dark Side, with the Grim Reaper, as the 6-foot-4, 240-pounder was known during a 12-year career.

Who were the toughest SOBs in the league? What's it feel like to really land a punch? Which fighters do you think were on the juice? What's it like to have your career ended by a concussion?

A look at life as an NHL enforcer.

If that's what Grimson wanted to talk about.

But a man who made his living in a league that glorifies violence doesn't spend time glorifying it off the ice.

"I don't make a point of talking about it a whole lot," Grimson said yesterday, on the phone from a law office in Nashville.

That's right, the Reaper is now a full-fledged litigator. His work is strictly civil, these days.

"We do lots of insurance defence work," he said. "Right now I'm wrestling with a lot of car accident claims, construction claims, stuff like that."

Grimson, 43, grappled with fellow NHL tough guys from 1990 to 2001, when a punch, or several, by fellow heavyweight George Laraque ended his career.

Fighting off concussion symptoms, the former Bison completed the degree he started at the U of M and enrolled in law school at the University of Memphis.

Nearly six years later, and following a stint at the NHL Players Association, he's practising law with a small firm in the Music City.

If you're at the dinner Monday night, you'll hear about his journey, and about the one thing that saved him from the kind of post-NHL hangover that haunts so many ex-players.

"The importance of education," Grimson said. "Because education and academics have certainly been a key part of my life, helpful in transitioning out of sports and back into, for lack of a better term, civilian life."

Grimson has never made any apologies for how he made his living, pre-law.

But after amassing 2,113 penalty minutes in the NHL, he's not about to wade into the current debate over fighting's place in the game, a debate renewed by the death of 21-year-old Don Sanderson in Ontario.

"I'm a little bit reluctant to have any comments that line up beside the tragic story of this kid's death," Grimson said. "I don't think I owe the game, the role or anybody that. I did what I did. It's not my debate any longer."

That said, Grimson has kids now, kids that occasionally go to Predators games. Including a 12-year-old son, Christian, who plays the game.

"He understands what I did," Grimson said. "And he, like any 12-year-old boy, gets kind of a kick out of it ... like most of the other 17,000 or 18,000 people in the building who are on their feet to see that part of the game play out."

Without condoning or promoting it, Grimson says he's explained to his son why people allow on the ice what they don't regard as acceptable off it.

"I explain why fighting exists," he said. "Why people feel there needs to be this aspect of the game, or that particular player who provides that role. But apart from that, you want to make sure your son understands that just because that happens on the ice never means it's OK for that to carry over into the school playground, or anything like that."

Seems to me that'd be a tough thing to rationalize.

"Even a young kid gets that," Grimson said. "One takes place within the context of a sport where that kind of behaviour is policed and permissible. The other is clearly not permissible."

Case closed.

If you're looking to pick a fight over it, you've come to the wrong guy.


Videos

Photos