Simon will sit out the remainder of the regular season and all of the playoffs for his stick attack on New York Rangers forward Ryan Hollweg during a game last Thursday, the NHL announced Sunday.
Simon was not allowed to play Saturday and will miss the Islanders’ remaining 14 games. If his team does not qualify for the playoffs or plays fewer than 10 playoff games this spring, Simon would serve additional games at the start of the 2007-08 season to satisfy the minimum term of the suspension.
“The National Hockey League will not accept the use of a stick in the manner and fashion in which Mr. Simon used his Thursday night,” Colin Campbell, NHL senior executive vice-president and director of hockey operations, said in a statement released by the league. “As a consequence of his actions, Mr. Simon has forfeited the privilege of playing in an NHL game again this season, regardless of how many games the Islanders ultimately play.”
Based on his US$1-million contract, which expires at the conclusion of the season, Simon forfeits a minimum of $80,213.90. The money goes to the players’ emergency assistance fund.
The incident occurred at 13:29 of the third period. Hollweg had dropped Simon with a body check when Simon got up and took a two-handed swing. His stick struck Hollweg’s upper body, cutting Hollweg on the chin. Simon was assessed a match penalty. Hollweg finished the game and was in the Rangers’ lineup when they lost in overtime Saturday to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Nassau County prosecutors are reviewing video of the Thursday incident to deterine if criminal charges should be laid.
Because Simon can become an unrestricted free agent July 1, he might never pull on an Islanders sweater again. The last time he put on his uniform was Friday when the annual team photo was snapped.
The Simon suspension will be the longest in terms of NHL games missed in league history.
Under the unlikely scenario of the Islanders going on to win the Stanley Cup while requiring the maximum seven games in each of four rounds to do it, Simon would miss 43 games.
Marty McSorley, then with Boston, missed 23 games after being suspended for the balance of the regular season in February 2000 for a stick attack on Donald Brashear, then with Vancouver. McSorley was banned for a year, but never appeared in another NHL game.
Gordie Dwyer also missed 23 games after a September 2000 suspension, He was playing for Tampa Bay when he abused officials and returned to the ice from the penalty box to fight in an exhibition game against Washington.
Todd Bertuzzi, then with Vancouver, sat out the rest of the season for jumping Colorado’s Steve Moore from behind in March 2004. Bertuzzi missed 13 regular-season games and the Canucks’ seven playoff games, and he was prevented from playing anywhere during the 2004-05 lockout. He had been suspended indefinitely and was eventually reinstated by commissioner Gary Bettman.
Dale Hunter, then with Washington, was suspended for the first 21 regular-season games of the 1993-94 season for a hit on Pierre Turgeon, then with the Islanders, following a Turgeon goal during the 1993 playoffs.
Campbell held a 90-minute hearing with Simon in New York on Saturday. Simon had been suspended indefinitely Friday pending a ruling by Campbell. Simon had been suspended by the NHL five times previously.
Simon issued a statement Saturday night saying he’d watched a video of the Thursday incident and that he was “disgusted” by what he saw.
“There is absolutely no place in hockey for what I did,” he said.
He apologized to Hollweg, a 23-year-old Californian, saying his hope was to “reach out to him in the near future.” He also apoligized to his team and to the league. The Rangers scored a power-play goal during his penalty to earn a 2-1 victory.
“What you saw Thursday is not the person, player and competitor that I am,” he stated. “I now my teammates and opponents over my 14 years in the NHL understand that.”
Simon added that he was “competely out of it” when he got up after being checked by Hollweg. He underwent physical tests Friday and said he’d suffered a concussion when he hit the boards. Team doctors told him he should not travel.
Regardless, Simon lost control and now suffers the consequences.
The hit on Hollweg was the last straw for the NHL. Campbell had suspended New Jersey’s Cam Janssen a week ago for three games for a late hit on Toronto’s Tomas Kaberle, who remains out of the Leafs’ lineup.
The Islanders began the day seventh in the Eastern Conference, three points above the playoff cutoff.
“Chris Simon has played a major role in our success this season and we will miss his presence in our lineup,” Islanders GM Garth Snow said in a statement Sunday. “His regret is clearly evident in the statement he released (Saturday).
“Our entire organization supports Chris every step of the way.”