The Enforcer (or Protector, if you prefer) is a player cut from a different cloth. In the beginning, the Hockey Gods proclaimed, “let there be fists,” and in the past, that was enough. But thuggish goonism is no longer sufficient. Now the big guys must possess skills and smarts as well as strength and a willingness to pulp someone.
The role of Enforcer has been consistently supported by players across the board and Scott “The Sheriff” Parker said in a 2004 interview that fights actually help prevent more serious injuries and helps to police the games. In terms of the future, Stu Grimson said he couldn’t envision the sport without that role.
Even so, the general public’s perception retains the cry of “YOU GOONS!” Probably because it’s easier to consider these players as one dimensional ciphers whose only mantra is “crush, kill destroy.”
But scratch an Enforcer and you’ll most likely find a person. An interesting, intelligent, humourous person with a great sense of perspective and balance.
Today, our Enforcer Emeritus is George Parros of the Anaheim Ducks, but back in the ‘90s the fists to fear belonged to Stu “The Grim Reaper” Grimson, who, during his 15 year career (1987-2002) racked up over 2,000 penalty minutes with eight different teams. Now Mr. Grimson is a trial attorney, practicing civil defense litigation and domestic relations.
Just imagine it, you have to go to court and everyone knows your attorney is The Grim Reaper. How cool would that be? … I mean, the Grim Reaper part, not the being in court part, that wouldn’t be very much fun.
Recently, Mr. Grimson was kind enough to take some time out of his busy day settling property line disputes to answer a few questions.TMM: Have you ever regretted hitting someone a little too hard? SG: Never. Although sometimes I regret not hitting certain characters hard enough. TMM: When you were christened “The Grim Reaper”, what was your first reaction? SG: I got “The Grim Reaper” label my first year of junior hockey as a 17-year old. I supposed that I liked it at first. Over time, I suppose I have become somewhat ambivalent. TMM: Was this a role you fell into naturally or were you encouraged into it? SG: A little of both. For me, this was a role I had lots of natural ability for and, over time, I was encouraged in a sometimes subtle and sometimes not so subtle way that the role might be a good fit for me. TMM: Did/does your hockey past affect work? Positively? Negatively? SG: My hockey past affects me in a positive way. It doesn’t hurt that people know my name and are familiar with my former career as I develop professional relationships in a completely different area. TMM: Most Enforcers are lumped into the unfair category of being nothing but untalented, uneducated meatheads. Did that perception ever bother you? SG: The perception never bothered me because I know a lot of enforcers and they are anything but meatheads. TMM: George Parros and Kevin Westgarth (Los Angeles Kings) battled at Staples recently and then went out for dinner after the game. How common are these types of friendships between ‘enemies’? SG: In my experience, these relationships are fairly common. Jim McKenzie and I played together in the Ducks organization in the late ‘90s. We became great friends as a result. TMM: How much leeway were you given to determine who/when to fight? SG: The decision when or when not to fight was usually left to me. It was rare that I had a coach telling me when I needed to do that. TMM: How difficult was it facing off against former teammates? SG: I never had a problem facing former teammates. In fact, the fact that you knew a lot of guys on the other side probably challenged you to play harder. TMM: Living in Nashville, do you consider yourself a Preds fan and how involved are you in hockey today? SG: I retired a Nashville Predator and my family has made its home here since that time. I work for the team doing color commentary on the radio (102.9 the Buzz) for about half of the home games during the season. I am a Preds fan. Also, my son is a Bantam major with the Junior Preds travel team and I coach that group of 14-year olds.
…and finally… TMM: Is it REALLY true that when you sit in the penalty box ‘you feel shame’? The Grim Reaper: Yes. You feel great shame. And can you imagine feeling great shame for over 2,000 minutes of your career?