Mike Grier was a hard working and hard hitting grinder. He was an honest and dependable third line winger, capable of making quite the impact on the game, pardon the pun. He was a thunderous but clean body checker who frightened more than a few defensemen into making mistakes.
At 6'1" and anywhere in the neighborhood of 230lbs, Grier may have have looked more like a football player on skates. That's partly because his family are heavily involved in football. His father Bobby has been a long time coach and manager in the NFL with the New England Patriots and Houston Texans. His brother Chris is Director of College Scouting for the Miami Dolphins.
But for Mike hockey was always his game.
“I never really played football,” he said. “I love it, you know, Sundays I love sitting down and watching football all day, watching the games and stuff like that. But hockey was something different and was something that was my own, a different outlet and something I enjoyed doing," he told the New England Hockey Journal.
Born in Detroit and raised in Boston, Grier was a ninth-round draft pick of St. Louis in 1993. He was traded to Edmonton while still at Boston University where he studied sociology was an All American and Hobey Baker finalist in the NCAA championship season of 1995.
Grier broke into the NHL during the 1996-97 season with the Edmonton Oilers, playing in 79 games while scoring 15 goals and 17 assists for 32 points as a rookie. He would spend six seasons in Edmonton, posting two 20-goal seasons, before being traded to Washington.
Grier would stay with the Capitals for parts of two seasons, before being dealt at the trade deadline in 2004 to the Buffalo Sabres. He was a member of the Sabres during their run to the 2005-06 Eastern Conference Finals.
He signed with San Jose as a free agent in the summer of 2006 and spent three seasons with the Sharks, making a trip to the playoffs in each of those seasons. He returned to Buffalo as a free-agent in 2009 and played the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons – the final two of his career – with the Sabres.
Grier racked up 383 points (162-221) in 1,060 NHL games for the Edmonton, Washington, Buffalo and San Jose. He also appeared in 101 playoff games. He is only the second player of African ancestry to reach the 1000 games played mark in NHL history. Donald Brashear is the other.
Grier, who showed surprising agility on his skates, as also a top penalty killing forward. He topped the 20 goal mark a couple of times but was not there for his offense. Though he was tough as they come (In Edmonton he once delayed shoulder dislocation surgery until the off-season by just regularly - and painfully - popping his shoulder back into place by himself) he was not much of a fighter.