As we continue to celebrate Black History Month, let’s recall a fan-favorite from his time in Buffalo: Mike Grier. The Detroit-born right winger played four years with the Buffalo Sabres over two different stints with the organization and served as an assistant coach for the New Jersey Devils.
After being drafted by the St. Louis Blues in the ninth round of the 1993 NHL Entry Draft, Grier went on to play three seasons at Boston University. He began his pro career in 1996 and spent six seasons with the Edmonton Oilers. In 2002, he joined the Washington Capitals for most of two seasons until the hockey world brought him to Buffalo via trade in March 2004.
Grier played the rest of that season with the Sabres, and then the NHL lockout hit. He returned to Buffalo for the 2005-06 season, when he put up 23 points (7-16) in 81 games. Following that year, he spent three seasons with San Jose before returning to Buffalo from 2009-2011.
Overall, his NHL career eclipsed 1100 games and 400 points, and he was the first Black player born and trained in the U.S. to hit the thousand-game marker. During his time in Buffalo especially, Grier was known for his penalty-killing abilities.
Grier joined the Devils in 2018 as an assistant coach and spent two seasons in New Jersey. He also previously served as a scout for the Chicago Blackhawks from 2014-2018.
Focus On the Present
While it’s certainly important this Black History Month (and year-round) to celebrate the historic achievements of Black players throughout Sabres history, it’s equally important to celebrate the Black players in the NHL today, including several with current or former ties to the Buffalo Sabres organization.
Today, we’re giving a quick shoutout to current Sabres forward Kyle Okposo. The 32-year-old, who is biracial, is currently in his 14th NHL season, having spent nine of those years with the New York Islanders. In 2006, Okposo became just the second African-American who played U.S. amateur hockey to reach 500 NHL games. The first? Mike Grier.
Okposo has now appeared in over 800 NHL games and has also eclipsed the 500-point mark in his career.
Further Reading & Actions
Don’t forget to read the Q&A we did with several Black players who spent time with the Buffalo Sabres organization. Part one focused on diversity and race in hockey, while part two reflected back on their time with the Sabres/Amerks.
Check out the Black Girl Hockey Club, a non-profit organization that focuses on making hockey more inclusive for Black women, their family, friends and allies.
The Buffalo Sabres recently unveiled a partnership with local artist Edreys Wajed in honor of Black History Month. A t-shirt with this logo is available for purchase here, with a portion of proceeds going to Breaking Barriers.
Stay tuned to Die By the Blade over the course of the month as we continue to highlight Black players in Buffalo Sabres history.