San Jose Sharks hire Mike Grier as first Black GM in NHL history

ByKristen Shilton via ESPN logo
Tuesday, July 5, 2022
ESPN

Mike Grier made history as the NHL's first Black general manager when the San Jose Sharks announced his appointment to the position Tuesday.

Grier has broken a long-standing barrier within the NHL, which could have far-reaching implication for years to come.

"It's something I'm extremely proud of," Grier said of being the league's first Black GM. "I realized there was a responsibility that comes with the territory, but I'm up for it [with] how I carry myself and how the organization carries themselves. ... For me, my job is to do the best I can for the San Jose Sharks organization, and if I do that, hopefully it opens the door to give other opportunities to other minorities to get in front-office positions and maybe lead a team down the road as well."

Grier's ability to do just that was what drew San Jose's interest -- a point team president Jonathan Becher wanted to make clear while also celebrating a historic achievement.

"We hired the best general manager available," Becher said. "Mike just happens to be Black. The focus was on finding the best candidate for the job.

"Having said that, it's great. It's part of our pioneering spirit, which is get the most out of everybody and expand the sport. San Jose is a very culturally diverse area as well. So I hope you do serve as an inspiration of lots of people, and then I hope you're the first but certainly not the last."

Grier, 47, was one of several candidates the Sharks considered to replace interim GM Joe Will, who had held the post since November, when longtime GM Doug Wilson left the club for medical reasons. Wilson officially stepped down as Sharks GM in April after 19 seasons with the club.

This role is a homecoming for Grier, who played 14 seasons in the NHL -- for four teams, including the Sharks -- before his retirement in 2011. The Detroit native was most recently a hockey operations adviser for the New York Rangers last season and scouted for the Chicago Blackhawks from 2014 to 2018.

Grier isn't the first GM in his family, either. Older brother Chris Grier has been GM of the NFL'sMiami Dolphinssince 2016. Their father, Bobby, also is a longtime NFL coach and executive who works as a consultant for the Dolphins.

Chris was in a similar position to the one Mike is in now -- trying to rebuild a team in transition. The Sharks are in a three-year playoff drought, longest in franchise history, and finished last season sixth in the Pacific Division (32-37-13). San Jose needs a head coach as well, after Bob Boughner was fired just four days before Grier's appointment.

It's a lot for any GM -- let alone a first-timer -- to take on, but Grier has some knowledgeable allies in his corner.

"As soon as I told my dad about the job, he went right into the mode of giving me tips and advice," Grier said. "I talk to [him and Chris] a lot, and my brother's recently been through this [process] with the Dolphins, where he made some decisions to move on from some players to be better in the future, and he's turned that team around in about four years.

"It's something we've talked about, and growing up, we talked about the challenges of building rosters and things like that. I lean on them a lot. They've got a lot of different perspective because the sports [differ], but I definitely trust their input."

Grier's first task will be guiding San Jose through the NHL entry draft, which hosts its first round in Montreal on Thursday. Then he can shift to the bigger picture of piecing together a competitive team in a salary-cap world.

Whatever challenges lie ahead, Grier is prepared to trust his instincts while delivering San Jose back to prominence.

"I think the main thing is to be to be yourself," Grier said. "You don't want to go somewhere and be phony. I'm trying to be open and honest, be myself -- have a vision, be clear about your vision and when you come to how you want your vision to go, stick to your process. But the main thing is to be myself."