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Grimson Back to Serve and Protect Ducks

October 06, 1998|DIANE PUCIN

Stu Grimson is the son of a Canadian Mountie, so is it any wonder that Grimson is an enforcer, a goon if you must, the guy who will drop his gloves and try out his right hook whenever necessary, whenever he must protect a teammate, preserve his team's honor, save the day for the good guys, which this year, for Grimson, are the Mighty Ducks?

"Stuuuuuuu," that is the noise that will fill the Arrowhead Pond whenever Grimson, big and brawny, with those scars around his eyes, around his chin, barrels out. He is back, this great fan favorite, and the hope is that Paul Kariya's head will not be an endangered species anymore.

What he is, the tough guy, is not something Grimson is embarrassed about. Not at all. The 33-year-old from Kamloops in British Columbia is secure in the knowledge that what he does, being a physical presence that, let's face it, might inspire fear, is a necessary and even popular job. The fans, after all, love Grimson.

They loved him here when he was an alternate captain in the team's inaugural season. They loved him in Detroit, where he spent two seasons after the Ducks traded him and they loved him in Hartford, which turned into Carolina. And they love him here again. Grimson was welcomed back to the Pond with "Stuuuu" echoing immediately.

"My job," Grimson says, "is to make it easier for the smaller, faster guys to move around the ice. And to make the smaller guys play tougher too."

This description makes Grimson's job sound heroic, valiant, upstanding. In his heart, Grimson knows he is not a bad guy, is not some thug, is certainly not a goon. It is kind of like, well, being a Mountie.

"That is the one thing that makes me mad," Grimson says. "To be called a goon. Because the word 'goon' delimits me. It makes me seem one-dimensional and it diminishes the other things I do. I've been around a number of years and over the course of a season, I think I contribute in many ways besides fighting."

Indeed Grimson lists as his finest moment in the NHL the time in 1995 when he scored a goal for Detroit in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals against Chicago. He prides himself, also, on being a clubhouse leader, the kind of man who can stand up during the good times and say "Nicely done," and also stand up during the bad times and find the words to make his teammates pull their heads up and make their wills stronger.

"Having Stu back," Duck goalie Guy Hebert says, "is going to make a big difference to the attitude of this team. He is a leader in the best way. Because he's a leader by example."

But more than that, Hebert admits, it will be nice to have Grimson standing on the ice, all 6-feet-5 of him, tall, strong and scowling. "He has a presence, no doubt about it," Hebert says.

Hebert wonders if Kariya would have taken that shot to the head last year from Gary Suter, the one that cost Kariya so much of last season, the one that made Kariya afraid his career might be over.

"Would that hit have happened with Stu here? Maybe not," Hebert says. "And if it had happened, life afterward would not have been good for some people. I think teams will be a little leery of taking some of the same liberties on our superstars this season."

Grimson says he has watched the tape of Suter's attack on Kariya. "I don't think it was a malicious act," Grimson says, "but that doesn't change the end result. Part of my job is to make sure things like that don't happen and to take care of things afterward."

As the son of a Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer, Grimson had a peripatetic childhood, moving often. "It's a life a little like kids of Army officers have in the U.S.," Grimson says.

His father, Stan, who is retired after 31 years in the RCMP, said that although all the moving wasn't easy for Stu, "it made him a little tougher and a little better able to adjust to new things and a little better able to handle himself."

Stu was first put into a pair of hockey skates when he was 5. Stan did the honors. "But it wasn't because I thought he'd be an NHL player," Stan says. "It was just so that he and I could get out on a frozen lake together."

Grimson didn't have his first hockey fight until he was 17 and in junior hockey. "It was against a big guy named Guy Paradee," Grimson said. "He was enormous. He landed a lot more punches than I did, that's for sure. I'd have to say that fight wasn't a draw and I didn't win."

But Grimson doesn't lose many and yet when he's off the ice, Grimson is thoughtful and soft-spoken. "A lot of us 'enforcers' aren't like what you'd think when we're not in uniform," Grimson says.

He didn't grow up wanting to be an enforcer either.

"I mean what kid would? It just kind of happened. It was my size. It was my personality. I'm pretty aggressive and always have been," Grimson says.

Was he hard to dewal with as a child? "Well, uh, yes," he says. "Let's put it this way. If my son (2-year-old Kristjan) gives me half the trouble I gave my parents, I'm in for some big trouble."

Except that Stan would disagree. "No trouble," Stan says. "But he was all boy, and above all Stu has made me proud. He's never had the most talent but he's always been the hardest worker. He does not give up on anything and he has a strong sense of values and of right and wrong."

Values. Knowing right from wrong. Maybe that's it. The essence of being an enforcer. Knowing wrong when you see. Fighting to make it right.

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