Highlighting Black players throughout Buffalo Sabres history
In honor of Black History Month, I wanted to pick up where I left off last February in highlighting some of the great Black players who have skated for the Buffalo Sabres in the team’s history. Previously covered: Mike Grier, Val James, Tony McKegney & Grant Fuhr.
Before Jean-Luc Grand-Pierre became the first Black player in Columbus Blue Jackets history, he was a member of the Sabres organization from 1997-2000. Originally drafted by the St. Louis Blues in 1995 (179th overall), Grand-Pierre was shipped to Buffalo less than a year later as part of a five-piece trade that included Yuri Khmylev and draft picks that became Cory Sarich, Maxim Afinogenov and Andrei Podkonicky.
After three seasons with Val d’Or in the QMJHL, Grand-Pierre joined the AHL’s Rochester Americans for the 1997-98 season. He racked up an impressive 211 penalty minutes – and added 10 points – in 75 games. The 20-year-old wasn’t by any means the highest scorer on the team, but his work ethic was evident. He was also one of only four players to appear in every game that season for the Amerks.
He was rewarded with his first NHL call-up the following season and would split the next two seasons between Buffalo and Rochester. In the end, he only played 27 regular-season games for the Sabres, and four playoff games, but all these years later, I can still hear Rick Jeanneret saying his name in that special way that only RJ can.
Grand-Pierre went on to play for Columbus, Atlanta and Washington before playing internationally until 2013. His journey took him through Sweden and Germany before he finally hung up the skates. Over the years in the NHL, he recorded 20 points and 311 PIM in 269 regular-season games, most of which were with Columbus between 2000 and 2004.
Now 45, Grand-Pierre serves as Director of Hockey Operations for a few Belfry Spiders youth hockey teams in the Columbus area. He’s also a studio analyst for the Blue Jackets.
Stay tuned throughout Black History Month as we continue to highlight Black players throughout Sabres history.