In this edition of "The Game I'll Never Forget," enforcer Stu Grimson recalls the arrival of two separate milestones: the birth of his first child, followed by his first NHL goal.
The game I’ll never forget is actually a combination of two games played over three days, and I had one of the biggest moments of my life in between.
I had just started my second year with the Blackhawks, and we had traveled to Pittsburgh for a road game against the Penguins. My wife was pregnant with our first child and expecting any day. We had stayed overnight on the road, and shortly before we were supposed to leave for the Igloo, I got a call from her telling me that she was going into labor. We were hundreds of miles away, and there was no way I was going to be back in time.
It was an emotional roller coaster, to say the least. Luckily, the doctor said he was able to slow things down, and my wife sat tight at home until the team got back. But the minutes of the game ticked by slowly; it was a countdown until I could get home and be with her. As fortune would have it, the game ended a 4-4 tie, and we played as long as it was allowed back then, naturally. As we flew back towards Chicago, I was getting more anxious by the minute and stayed that way until the moment we landed.
Thankfully, everything worked out well. I made it home in time to get her to the hospital, and Erin Grimson, our daughter, came into this world not long after, on Oct. 23, 1991.
But that’s not where the story ends, since the next night we had a matchup against Calgary, my old team, at home at the Stadium.
I was pretty drained emotionally by the time we took the ice, but I think it just forced me to dig deeper during the game and I think the adrenaline compensated for everything.
As anyone who has had a child knows, you don’t get much rest after your child is born, and I was no exception. That was such a dramatic departure from my normal routine of running around during the day. But it’s kind of a peculiar thing: I guess the athlete in you finds a way, in spite of all the personal circumstances in your life, to separate that out and focus on the moment at hand. I left the hospital shortly before game time, and I dressed for that game against the Flames. That night I would score my first NHL goal.
I was pretty drained emotionally by the time we took the ice, but I think it just forced me to dig deeper during the game, and I think the adrenaline compensated for everything. I played kind of numb all night long, but I snapped out of it once I scored the goal. My first goal came on a little scramble in front of the net; the puck bounced around a little bit, and I was there to tap it in. When I saw that puck go between Mike Vernon’s legs, it was pretty exciting for me and my teammates. They certainly were glad for me; it was a big deal, and they knew I was waiting to score one. After a whirlwind 48 hours, I continued to ride the same emotional high.
It was a big day for a lot of reasons. You never forget your first NHL goal, and that for me makes it all the more special. Even though I think we lost, I was able to do pretty well through that game against Calgary. I won’t say that my wife and new daughter weren’t on my mind, but I was able to park it for the most part and do what I needed to do.
Darren Pang, who was working as our sideline reporter at the time, did an interview with me right after the game, and he was good enough to give me a copy of that tape. I remember he had labeled it “Stu Grimson’s big day!” It was comical and we always got a kick out of that. It was a great moment, one that my family will always cherish.
That night, I made my way back to the hospital with the puck from my first NHL goal in hand, and I gave it to my daughter. She’s had it ever since.