Grant Fuhr was once referred to by hockey great Wayne Gretzky as the best goalie to ever play in the National Hockey League. Fuhr achieved a series of firsts as a player and after his career ended, he embraced his role model status.
Fuhr was born September 28, 1962 in Spruce Grove, Alberta in Canada. The biracial Fuhr was adopted by Robert Fuhr and Betty Wheeler and raised primarily in the Albert province. His playing career began in 1979 at the age of 17, playing for the junior Western Hockey League’s Victoria Cougars. After a strong two years, Fuhr was drafted in the summer of 1981 by the Edmonton Oilers, becoming the first Black goalie in the NHL’s history.
In 10 seasons with Edmonton, Fuhr won four Stanley Cup championship trophies with the squad. He is the first Black player on a Stanley Cup winning team. Fuhr played in five NHL All-Star games and is a winner of the Vezina Trophy, given to the league’s top goaltender. He even came close to winning the NHL’s MVP trophy, eclipsing his teammate and hockey legend Gretzky in voting at the end of the 87-88 season.
The imposing goalie played for several other squads but not with the same level of success he had with the Oilers. His later playing days were plagued with injuries and rumors of drug abuse. In 1990. he admitted to substance abuse issues and was suspended before being reinstated the following year.
Fuhr ended his career in 2000 with the Calgary Flames and coached his position for the Phoenix Coyotes between 2004 and 2009. He also coached while at Calgary. Fuhr was officially inducted into the Hockey Hall in the fall of 2003. He is, to date, the first and only Black player in the NHL’s Hall of Fame.
Fuhr was honored to be considered a symbol of inspiration to young players, but downplays his achievements in light of the pioneering accomplishments of Willie O’Ree, considered the league’s first Black player.
Fuhr released a book about his life titled Grant Fuhr: The Story of a Hockey Legend.
PHOTO: Hockey Hall Of Fame
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