Ice Hockey: Chilling outlook of Grim Reaper

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The Independent Online
WHEN the Montreal Canadiens and the Chicago Blackhawks skate on to the ice at Wembley Arena today it will be the first time in 33 years that teams from the National Hockey League have appeared in Britain.

Although there will be a cornucopia of talent on view in the matches this afternoon and tomorrow, most attention will be focused on the game's leading hit man, Stu Grimson, of the Chicago Blackhawks. Grimson, who weighs in at 220lb and is 6ft 5in tall, is better known as the 'Grim Reaper' because of his propensity for physical contact.

Ostensibly a winger, Grimson has scored only twice in the last two seasons. The type of attacking role he fulfils is better illustrated by the penalty minutes he has accumulated - 473 in 108 games.

'It's not my job to score goals,' Grimson said. 'If liberties are being taken against one of our best players, I go out to give them space. People who understand the game understand my role. It's a physical game and intimidation plays a part in it. An early big body check lets an opponent know you're there.'

Chicago will be keen to make an early impression this season in reaction to their defeat in the Stanley Cup final. They have won that competition three times, a record overshadowed by that of the Canadiens who have lifted the coveted trophy on 23 occasions.

Both sides have new coaches, Jacques Demers for Montreal and Daryl Sutter at Chicago, who will have to honour the promise of the tournament organisers that the top players such as Chris Chelios, Steve Larmer, Jean-Jacques Daigneault and Stephen Lebeau will have a lot of ice time.

If this weekend's experiment works, further matches featuring NHL teams are likely and they may even play for Conference points.