Mike Grier, who spent 14 seasons within the N.H.L. as a gritty right wing, on Tuesday was named general manager of the San Jose Sharks, becoming the primary Black general manager within the history of a league that just accomplished its a hundred and fifth season.
Grier, 47, who retired as a player in 2011, involves the team after having worked as a scout for Chicago and spending two years as an assistant coach with the Devils. Last season, he worked as a hockey operations adviser to the Rangers, reporting to the team’s president and general manager, Chris Drury, who played with Grier at Boston University and with the Buffalo Sabres.
Grier comes from an achieved sporting family. His older brother, Chris, has been the final manager of the Miami Dolphins since 2016, and his father, Bobby, was an N.F.L. running back and a coach with the Recent England Patriots before taking front-office jobs with the Patriots, the Houston Texans and the Dolphins.
“The fundamental thing my father instilled in us is figure ethic,” Mike Grier said in a news conference in San Jose, Calif. “He left for work before we got up for varsity and sometimes he wouldn’t get home until after dinner or once we were able to get in bed. He’d not sleep till all hours to scout, whatever needed to be done.”
The hiring is a big milestone for the N.H.L., where Black players make up a small minority of the league’s rosters and occupy few front-office posts.
Grier said he hoped his appointment would create opportunities for others.
“Since my playing days, the league itself has gotten increasingly diverse, and that’s something I’m glad to see,” he said. “My job is to do the very best I can for the San Jose organization, and if I try this, hopefully it opens the door to other minorities to get in front-office positions.”
When Grier entered the league with the Edmonton Oilers within the 1996-97 season, he was reported to be the primary African American player born and developed in the US to play within the N.H.L. The Florida-born Val James, who entered the league in 1981, and Donald Brashear, who was born in Indiana and debuted within the N.H.L. in 1993, each played junior hockey in Canada.
Grier, who was 6-foot-1 and 225 kilos in his playing days, played prep school hockey at St. Sebastian’s School in Needham, Mass., and was chosen within the ninth round of the 1993 draft, 219th overall, by the St. Louis Blues. That fall, just as Brashear was playing his first games for the Montreal Canadiens, Grier arrived at Boston University as a walk-on.
In his sophomore yr, Grier was a top scorer on B.U.’s national championship team playing on the primary line, while Drury was a freshman on the fourth line. Grier began his pro profession with Edmonton and had stints with the Washington Capitals, Sabres and Sharks.
Jonathan Becher, president of Sharks Sports and Entertainment, the franchise’s parent company, said feedback from Drury played a big role within the team’s selection, as did the rebound this yr by the Rangers, who reached the Eastern Conference finals.
“Chris has known Mike for a very long time and gave Mike a powerful endorsement as general manager,” Becher said. “Mike has that strength of character. Mike is a frontrunner.”
“I actually have had the privilege of knowing Mike for 3 many years and have the utmost respect for him as an individual, player and executive,” Drury said in an announcement. “I sit up for seeing what he’ll do with the Sharks.”
Grier joins a franchise in transition: San Jose reached the Western Conference finals in 2019 but since then has missed the playoffs three years in a row, the longest playoff drought within the franchise’s 30-year history.
The Sharks fired Coach Bob Boughner last week. Grier replaces Joe Will, who served because the interim general manager after Doug Wilson stepped down in April.
Grier said he didn’t have a timetable for naming a coach, and was putting his immediate deal with the N.H.L. draft, which begins Thursday in Montreal. San Jose has the No. 11 overall pick. The Sharks have a roster heavy on aging stars — including the defensemen Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic — who’ve big contracts that might limit San Jose’s ability to sign free agents.
The team’s two top scorers last season were Timo Meier and Tomas Hertl, who had 35 and 30 goals. Meier is 25 and Hertl 27.
Grier said he was not in search of a whole overhaul of the team.
“I’m not going to tear down the roster,” he said. “For us, there is likely to be a number of bumps within the road ahead, but we’re going to attempt to recuperate and make the roster higher day-after-day.”