I first started following hockey in the 2002-2003 season. That was the same year that Mike Grier started playing for the Eastern Conference in the NHL. While Grier had been playing with Edmonton for the previous seven years, this American-born player was back in the U.S. After Grier came to D.C., he continued to play for American teams (Buffalo and San Jose) for the rest of his career. I guess he realized that the United States is really a great place to play professional hockey.
I know we’re supposedly in a post-race society, but I will admit that black hockey players are somewhat of a rarity. Mike Grier though, was extra unique in this regard, because (according to Wikipedia), he “was the first African-American ice hockey player born and trained in the United States to play in the National Hockey League.” Grier was like the Jackie Robinson of the NHL! Cool. In addition to this fantastic statistic, Grier has also had a memorable hockey career, including a bronze medal from the 2004 Men’s World Ice Hockey Championships.
After such a great NHL experience though, Mike Grier has retired. He played in the NHL for 14 seasons and was last seen playing with the Buffalo Sabres. It’s always exciting to see former Capitals players play hockey these days, so it’s a little sad to see Grier leave the NHL. But maybe he’ll do a “Dale Hunter” and come back as a coach! Who knows.