‘Grim Reaper’ Sets New GoalsStuf Grimson lives a double life. On ice he is a force to be reckoned with. Off ice, he lives for his faith and family.
Nicknamed the ‘Grim Reaper,’ Stu Grimson is best known for his fighting-years in the NHL. Today, however, the only thing he’s fighting for is his faith and family.
“Being a dad is the most challenging and rewarding thing I have done,” says the former left winger who spent his career giving defence a bloody nose. “I enjoy being able to impart to my family some of what I have learned in the experiences of my life.”
Born in Kamloops, British Columbia. in 1965, Grimson played with Regina and Kamloops before being drafted by the Detroit Red Wings in 1983. Selected in the 10th round, Grimson was No. 186 overall. However, Grimson never ended up signing with Detroit, waiting until he became eligible to re-enter the draft on June 1, 1985. He finally entered the NHL after being drafted a second time, this time by Calgary.
The next decade saw Grimson play for Calgary, Anaheim, Chicago, Detroit, Hartford, Los Angeles and Nashville. At 210 pounds and six-foot-five inches, Grimson was a solid force to be reckoned with on the ice.
Off-ice, however, his fists unfolded into helping hands. Grimson was known for devoting countless hours to charitable causes including work with the American Cancer Society, the Canadian and American Spinal Research Organization and local hospitals.
“Most people are kind of stunned when they realize what kind of person I’m like off the ice,” Grimson says with a laugh. “That’s true of most guys who play my position in the NHL; most of them are easy to get along with and soft-spoken.”
Having become a believer in Jesus Christ the year he turned pro, Grimson spent off-seasons preaching sermons at Chapel Bytle Woods in Clearwater Bay, Ontario, in the mid-1990s. He also ran summer hockey schools for Christian athletes during off-season, alongside Chicago teammate Keith Brown.
Prior to finding Christ, Grimson says he was living a secret life. While outwardly confident and fierce, “I had a lot of anxiety,” he says. “I was going through some difficult circumstances in my life, and was craving peace and contentment.”
After reading Breakaway, a Hockey Ministries International (HMI) publication detailing faith-journeys from other hockey players, Grimson says he finally understood who God was. “It was through that book that I was first exposed to the real message of the Gospel—one that explained a personal relationship with Christ.”
As a result, the fighter learned to embrace love. “I found the peace I was looking for... Christ has allowed me to fellowship with His Father and to know Him in a deeper way.”
To this day Grimson, who now sits on the board of directors at HMI, credits the ministry with keeping him on track throughout his time in the spotlight. “HMI is a ministry that will always hold a special place in my life,” says Grimson. “Be it through a chapel program on the road, a summer conference, or a simple breakfast together on an extended trip, Hockey Ministries has been my spiritual companion and confidante.”
Grimson counts HMI president Don Liesemer Sr. a mentor and close friend. “He is a wise and godly man, who has come alongside me at critical moments in my life.”
Liesemer feels just as honoured to know Grimson. “I have known Stu for over twenty years. He is a true champion of the faith. His deep love for Christ and his passion to communicate the message of hope found in a personal relationship with Christ to his teammates and fans has inspired Stu to reach out at every opportunity. He has been a dynamic Christian ambassador in the game, initiating chapel services on nearly every team on which he played during his tenure in the NHL.”
… Grimson counts law school as one of his highlights.
When a fight against George Laraque left Grimson with post concussion syndrome, he eventually retired in June of 2003 and returned to Belmont University in Nashville, TN where he completed a major in economics. From there he went on to study law at Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law at the University of Memphis.
Despite the three-hour commute from Nashville where he lived with his family, Grimson counts law school as one of his highlights. “It was a difficult course of study, and a bit of a challenge, but I believed a degree in law might provide me with the broadest range of career choices as I considered a new profession.”
Today the Oakwood, Ontario, lawyer is hoping to start up his own practice, after resigning from a position with the NHLPA.
“I have a number of friends back in Tennessee who are doing it, and it’s becoming a dream or a challenge for me—something very promising to shoot for in the future.”
Overall, “I long to be doing something professionally that I can truly say brings me pleasure, and that I find rewarding and challenging.”
In the meantime, Grimson is continuing to devote himself to his primary focus: his wife and family.
“Since coming to know the Lord, success is defined by doing something meaningful that fits well with my family, and less by position or title,” shares the father of four.
Liesemer attests to Grimson’s success within the home. “Stu is loving and sensitive leader... His strong and caring relationship with his lovely wife, Pam, and their children is a testimony to all who know them.”
Grimson’s utmost prayer is that his children will follow Christ in their adult life, and “find a means to serve Him in some way.”
Every weekend the family worships together at The Meeting House, which they began attending after moving to the area in June of 2006.
“It’s been great,” says Grimson, who finds it similar to the church they were attending in Tennessee. “The kids have enjoyed the youth ministry, and we’ve enjoyed Bruxy Cavey. He’s a great preacher.”
Grimson makes sure to play hockey locally once or twice a week, in addition to coaching his sons’ pee-wee team. But when asked if he misses his days in the NHL, he doesn’t have to think twice. “I do. I’ve always enjoyed the sport; it’s a great culture, one that I was glad to have spent 17 years of my professional life doing, so I do miss it. It’s an enjoyable way to make a living.”
His advice for budding NHL stars? “Make the most of every single opportunity on the ice. Each opportunity is just another chance to better yourself and improve yourself in some way.”
Ultimately, however, the ‘Grim Reaper’ recommends trusting in a Creator who sows people’s destinies.
“When one has successfully discovered and effectively employed his or her respective gifts for God’s glory—that’s a fulfilling life,” he says.
Emily Wierenga is an author based in Blyth, Ontario. Her Book, Save My Children, is available through Castle Quay Books.
Originally published in Canadian Sports Magazine, May 2008.
Used with permission. Copyright © 2008 Christianity.ca.