People had been telling Stu Grimson for years that he should write a book. He certainly had a story worth telling.
Grimson spent over 14 seasons in the NHL, earning a name for himself as one of the league's most formidable enforcers. With 211 regular-season fights under his belt, it's easy to understand how he earned the nickname "the Grim Reaper."
After stepping away from the game due to concussion issues, Grimson defied the odds and completed his undergraduate degree and went on to earn a law degree to become a lawyer. Following his call to the bar, Grimson added to his courtroom duties, becoming a color analyst for the Nashville Predators and, later, an analyst for NHL Network.
Despite everything he accomplished, on and off the ice, Grimson wasn't sure if people would want to read his story. Much like how he initially approached his role in the NHL, Grimson viewed the prospect of a book with suspicion. He was a reluctant author.
Finally, after his friend, Brian Wood, tried to persuade him to write it for many years, Grimson eventually relented, but only after receiving a loving push from his wife, Jennifer.
"She said a book is just a natural extension of who you are and what you've done, and your story is an interesting one," Grimson explained.
It was what he needed to hear. He quickly got to work and wrote The Grim Reaper: The Life and Career of a Reluctant Warrior with Kevin Allen. Although it is unquestionably a hockey book through and through, Grimson's story offers so much more to the reader.
Grimson's book begins with his account of how he initially walked away from the NHL at the beginning of his career because he was not yet sure he could be the warrior everyone expected him to be. It was only after returning and fighting the indomitable Dave Brown did he realize he could hack it in the big leagues. Although the bout left him with a shattered face, the experience forever changed Grimson's perspective.
"The Brown encounter probably best encapsulates one of the central themes of my book, which is never let your fears stand in the way of. Beyond the other side of those fears may lay a path to your wildest dreams," the former King reflected.
Not only did the experience galvanize him to embrace his role in the NHL, it also inform how he approached his life off the ice.
"I've never considered myself to be a gifted or bright student, but I didn't let that stop me from finishing off my undergraduate degree, earning a law degree and then going on to take a legal education and apply it across so many different professional opportunities in my life," Grimson stated. "Don't let your fears stand in the way of you experiencing your best life."
Although you can look up Grimson's highlight reel, which includes 14 fights with Bob Probert, the book includes aspects of his life that he had not yet publicly discussed.
It was difficult for him to write about the end of his first marriage, his fractured relationship with former teammate and friend, Chris Chelios, and the decision to meet his birth parents later in life, but Grimson wanted to include them, not only because they're an important part of him, but because he hopes it could help others.
"I think that depending on who you are and where you are in your walk through life, these things might resonate with people and may help them in some way," Grimson said.
"There's probably a message for just about anybody in that book whether you're learning from my mistakes or taking to heart something I'm communicating."
Since Grimson only spent one season with the Kings, 2000-01, his time in LA doesn't factor heavily into the narrative, but, in talking with him, it's clear that the team still has a special place in his heart.
"The LA Kings for me was really one of the best fits of my NHL career," he noted. "The guys were great. Andy Murray showed a great deal of confidence in me. He saddled me with far more responsibilities than I had experienced in the past. I took a regular turn. It was just a great fit on so many levels."
Grimson's start with the Kings couldn't have come at a better time. For him and the whole family. Just before training camp commenced, his then wife, Pam, gave birth to their fourth child, Jayne.
"Our entire family was buzzing and that was only heightened by the anticipation of being with a new organization and a new opportunity," Grimson acknowledged. "It was really kind of an electrifying time in our family's history."
Once he hit the ice with the Kings, everything clicked. According to Grimson, head coach Andy Murray really valued his role. He recalled how Murray often went out of his way to affirm him. "When a coach does that, it really brings out the best in you as a professional," Grimson admitted.
In addition to Murray's encouragement, Grimson also received support from his teammates. "When I did my job and when I fulfilled my role, they were so quick to affirm me," Grimson recollected.
"They just always went out of their way to make mention of how much they appreciated what I did. Sometimes in a subtle way and sometimes in a direct way. As an athlete it just incentivizes you to do what you do with the utmost pride and distinction."
It's no surprise then that, during that 2000-01 campaign, Grimson racked up 235 penalty minutes, the most he ever accumulated in a single NHL season.
While Grimson recounts some of those pugilistic exploits with the Kings in The Grim Reaper, one story that didn't grace the pages was how, during his time in LA, he managed his first, and only, NHL goal-scoring streak.
After scoring against the Stars at home on December 7, Grimson and the Kings travelled to Edmonton to take on the Oilers.
Following a goal in the second period, which gave him goals in back-to-back games for the first time in his career, Grimson was given the opportunity to be one of the Hockey Night in Canada intermission interviews.
"I had never been on the Hockey Night in Canada intermission interview over the course of my career," Grimson said. "The thing that's kind of cool about that is the exposure you get back home. My parents would have tuned in way out there in British Columbia."
But the thing Grimson was looking forward to most about the interview was getting his hands on a Hockey Night in Canada towel. "They throw it around your shoulders as you do the interview," he explained.
"It sounds silly. It's just a towel but, for me as a player, you grow up watching those interviews and those players with those towels around their neck, and all of a sudden I've done one and this towel with the Hockey Night in Canada emblem became this treasured piece of memorabilia."
That was until one day, years later, Grimson came home and saw the prestigious towel hanging on the rack in the bathroom, soaking wet.
"I about lost my marbles," Grimson exclaimed. "I hunted down my son, only to realize he had grabbed it out of the linen pile and used the Hockey Night in Canada towel to dry himself off after he showered. So the sentimentality and the nostalgia was quickly lost on my son," Grimson added with a laugh.
While that story didn't make it into the book, it includes plenty of other funny and honest moments from Grimson's life.
Whether you followed Grimson's career or simply knew the weight his reputation carried, The Grim Reaper should give you a better appreciation and understanding of Stu Grimson, a reluctant warrior, who found his place on and off the ice.