Simon was suspended indefinitely Friday by the NHL, one day after his vicious two-handed stick swing to the face of New York Rangers forward Ryan Hollweg. Simon, who was given a match penalty Thursday night for deliberate attempt to injure, was summoned to a league hearing set for Saturday.
Hollweg took a few stitches in the chin, but was not seriously hurt. Simon likely will be feeling the sting of his actions for quite some time. The length of the banishment won’t be determined until the hearing with league disciplinarian Colin Campbell.
The suspension could be as long as those given to Todd Bertuzzi and Marty McSorley following their violent infractions that also gave a black eye to hockey. The Islanders have 15 regular-season games left, and might be without Simon for those and the playoffs should the team qualify.
“It hurts, no question,” forward Mike Sillinger said. “His presence on the ice, his toughness in the locker-room. Obviously there is nothing we can do about that. What’s done is done and we move forward.”
Simon didn’t feel well Friday after the photo session and went to see a doctor, an Islanders spokesman said. Simon appeared to be shaken up when Hollweg checked him hard into the boards, sparking the retaliation. An injury could prevent Simon from flying to Toronto, where disciplinary hearings commonly are held.
He also might face legal troubles in New York.
A spokesman for Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said Friday that “no decision has been reached” about whether to bring charges against Simon.
“We are going to review the tape,” spokesman Eric Phillips said.
This marked the sixth suspension Simon has been given by the league, which could work against him when the punishment is meted out.
“I haven’t really had time to sit down and talk to him about the situation,” said Islanders defenceman Brendan Witt, Simon’s roommate for six years when they played for the Washington Capitals. “Nobody is perfect in this world in any situation, and everyone has their moments.”
Simon was ejected from the Islanders’ 2-1 loss with 6:31 remaining in what was a tie game. The ensuing major power play resulted in Petr Prucha’s decisive goal.
Hollweg drove Simon into the boards with an unpenalized hit. Simon got up angrily and met him as they came together again, connecting with a swinging motion near Hollweg’s chin and neck. Hollweg fell to his back and rolled over onto his stomach by the boards.
He was motionless for a few moments, and was bleeding from the chin when he got up. Yet, he was well enough to practice with the Rangers on Friday and is expected to play Saturday at Pittsburgh.
“It always looks worse,” Witt said. “I saw the guy after the game, he looked fine. That’s enough to tell me that it wasn’t THAT bad. You know what I mean?
“The ref obviously thought it was clean,” Witt said of Hollweg’s hit. “Maybe if there had been a call, it would have never escalated to that.”
Simon didn’t practice with the team after the photo. He and Islanders GM Garth Snow declined to comment until after the hearing. Few of the Islanders wanted to talk much about the hit, instead serving as character witnesses for Simon.
“It’s unfortunate because he’s a great guy and a guy who would stick up for his teammate in any circumstances,” said former Oilers star Ryan Smyth, acquired by the Islanders last week. “I’m sure things will be dealt with properly.”
If history is any indicator, Simon could be shelved for a long time.
McSorley was suspended for the final 23 games of the 2000 season for knocking out Donald Brashear with a swinging stick. The ban was extended until February 2001 by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, and McSorley never played in the NHL again.
Bertuzzi missed the final 13 regular-season games and the playoffs because of his blindside punch to the head of Colorado’s Steve Moore on March 11, 2004. But the banishment was extended to 17 months and prevented him from playing anywhere during the yearlong NHL lockout.
He was reinstated by Bettman before the 2005-06 season.
McSorley and Bertuzzi both were charged by Vancouver authorities for their attacks. Bertuzzi pleaded guilty to causing bodily harm, and McSorley was convicted of assault with a weapon.
“You can look at any sports and you always have a situation of a certain player … look at (Latrell) Sprewell, and the list goes on,” Witt said. “The league is going to handle it a certain way and we’re just going to have to deal with the outcome.”
Simon was suspended four other times for violent on-ice acts and received a three-game ban in 1997 after directing a racial slur toward player Mike Grier, who is black.
During the playoffs in 2000, Simon sat out Game 2 of a series against Pittsburgh after he cross-checked Penguins defenceman Peter Popovic across the throat in the opener while with Washington.
In April 2001, Simon received a two-game ban for elbowing Anders Eriksson of Florida. He then was given a pair of two-game suspensions in 2004 – for cross-checking Tampa Bay’s Ruslan Fedotenko and then jumping on him and punching him, and for kneeing Dallas defenceman Sergei Zubov.
Simon, a veteran of 14 NHL seasons, signed a US$1-million, one-year contract with the Islanders last summer. That reunited him with Ted Nolan, who was Simon’s coach during his final year of junior hockey and took over behind the New York bench this season.
“You never question what kind of team guy he is,” Nolan said Friday. “I’ve coached a lot of people in my life but not too many good team guys better than Chris Simon.
“It’s one of those things where unfortunate things happen, but we’re professional people. Things happen and you move on.”
In Toronto, Maple Leafs head coach Paul Maurice said fortunately incidents like this don’t happen very often anymore in the NHL.
“I don’t know that we’re seeing that more than we did in the past,” said Maurice. “As a matter of fact, I think that’s almost gone from the game. I know we hear this a lot, ‘The players don’t respect each other.’ I’m not sure that’s true. I just think that clearly because it happens so little now that when it does, and I don’t think it’s overblown, it’s just that there’s lot of attention paid to it.
“This is going to sound way off the wall but I’m not sure the death penalty lowers the crime rate. Somebody will argue for and against that but I do think . . . I don’t think he thinks about it before he did what he did. I don’t think he says, ‘Well, geez, I might get 50 or I might get 2 or 3.’ I don’t think it happens like that. I think that every 1,000 games or so somebody absolutely loses their thought process and it happens.”
Leafs defenceman Ian White disagreed with the notion that incidents like this show players don’t respect each other.
“I think there’s a lot of respect (between players),” White said. “Sometimes I guess guys just lose their cool and something they wouldn’t normally do. It happens in your daily life, too. It’s unfortunate but I don’t think it’s happening all the time where you have to throw red flags or anything.”