Grier was introduced as General Manager of the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday, He became the first black GM in NHL history.
It’s a role not to be taken lightly.
“It’s something I’m very proud of,” Greer said. “My job is to do my best for the San Jose Sharks organization, and if I do, I hope it opens the door to give other minorities other opportunities to get into positions in the front office and possibly lead a team down the road as well.”
Greer’s rise has given hope and bragging rights to many black players, coaches and executives, past and present, who have said that a black person in such a high position is long overdue.
Bill Riley, who became the third black player in the NHL when he joined the Washington Capitals in 1974, said he took some time off charting his boat in Amherst, Nova Scotia, to tell anyone who would hear Greer name GM’s new Sharks.
“This is without a doubt the greatest piece of history that has happened in the NHL since Willie (Urey) broke the (color) barrier,” said Riley, who played 139 games for the Capitals and the Winnipeg Jets from 1974 to 1980. He was coach and general manager of Moncton for the Major Hockey League in Quebec in 1996-1997. “There were a lot of good hockey players, black guys with ability and knowledge, who never had the chance.”
Bryant McBride, who became the first black executive in the NHL office in 1992 and founded NHL Diversity, a precursor to the league’s “Hockey Is For Everyone” initiative, in 1994, Grier’s Rental advocated a game-changer in the NHL.
“It’s been an Old Boys club forever,” McBride said. “Mike is one of the few guys who’s been into that throughout his career. He’s reliable in those circles. He’s a smart guy, a smart hockey guy. Mike has had it since college people are drawn to him because he’s a really good leader, and people respect that” .
Seeing Greer climb up to the general manager position is a dream come true, said John Paris Jr., who became the first black coach to win a professional championship in 1994 when Atlanta of the International Hockey League beat Fort Wayne in the Turner Cup Final.
“She’s a pioneer,” said Paris Jr., who also served as coach and general manager for Macon’s Central Hockey League from 1996-1999. “He has the qualities to be there, otherwise they wouldn’t hire him. He’s just black. For us, people of color, we want more people to follow. It’s a proud day for hockey and a proud day for our community.”
Video: Mike Greer appointment discussion
Grier is the latest of a small but growing number of senior black executives – those who report directly to the team owner, president or general manager – on an NHL team.
There are now at least seven, including Tampa Bay Lightning COO Mark Bates and Brett Peterson, who became the first black assistant general manager in the NHL when the Florida Panthers appointed him on November 17, 2020.
“Since his playing days, the league itself has become more diverse,” Greer said. “There are more black players in the league and minorities in the league. There are more women and minorities in the front office, scouting and training positions. So from my point of view, that’s something I’m excited to see and excited to see.”
Peterson said he is happy to hire Jarir.
“Mike was such a brilliant player, he’s a better human being,” Peterson said. “He’s a leader. He’s a person of color, and I couldn’t be happier because he’s helping push this thing forward.”
Last season, Grier was a hockey operations advisor to the New York Rangers, helping them make decisions regarding hockey, off-ice player development and development prospects. He also helped develop on-ice with Hartford, its subsidiary in the American Hockey League.
Prior to joining Rangers, Greer was an assistant coach with the New Jersey Devils for two seasons (2018-20) and a professional scout for the Chicago Blackhawks for four seasons (2014-18).
Selected by the St. Louis Blues in the ninth round (#219) of the 1993 NHL Draft, Grier earned 383 points (162 goals, 221 assists) in 1,060 regular season games over 14 seasons with Edmonton Oilers, Capitals, Buffalo Will pop and sharks, making Tuesday a bit of a homecoming for the 47-year-old.
Grier also had an impressive college career, earning 120 points (59 goals, 61 assists) in 114 games over his three seasons with Boston University. As a sophomore in 1994-95, he helped the Terriers win the NCAA Championship and was a top 10 player in the Hobey Baker Award, awarded to the best player in the NCAA Division I.
Throughout it all, helping to grow hockey and make it more diverse has been part of Grier’s portfolio, and among the ways he’s done it has been by working with O’Ree, an NHL diversity ambassador, at the clinics.
“Sharing moments with Willie and talking to him during those camps and clinics was something that meant the world to me,” he said.
Greer has also been involved in coaching minority teams from the NextGen AAA Foundation that have competed for the past two years at the Beantown Summer Classic, winning their league in the prestigious New England Championships in 2020.
Reggie Millett, who played on that team and is now a striker at American International College, said the hiring of Greer by San Jose was “great for hockey.”
“It will be great to see what the sharks will be like in San Jose in the coming years,” Millett said. “Everyone will be watching him. I think it’s great for the hockey world, for his family, things like that.”