NHL suspends Simon for stick to face
UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) — New York Islanders forward Chris Simon was suspended indefinitely by the NHL on Friday for his stick-swinging hit to the face of Rangers center Ryan Hollweg.
Simon was given a match penalty for deliberate attempt to injure late in Thursday night’s 2-1 loss to the Rangers. The length of the suspension won’t be determined until after a disciplinary hearing. That hasn’t been scheduled but is expected to take place next week, likely in Toronto.
Simon was ejected with just more than 6 minutes left, and the ensuing power play led to the decisive goal in the Rangers’ victory.
Just seconds before he was hit, Hollweg drove Simon into the boards with a hard, clean check. Simon got up angrily and met Hollweg as they came together again. He then swung his stick into Hollweg’s face, just above his neck.
Hollweg’s chin was bloodied, but he was not seriously injured and expects to play Saturday when the Rangers visit Pittsburgh.
Simon has been suspended several times before by the league, and that could carry weight when the latest punishment is handed out.
“I’ve always been known as a team guy, and I feel real bad about letting the team down,” said Simon, who scored the Islanders’ lone goal Thursday. “I think I’ll wait until I talk to the league office, and then I’ll answer all questions afterward.”
Simon was back at Nassau Coliseum on Friday morning for the Islanders’ team picture, but he didn’t participate in practice. General manager Garth Snow declined to comment until after the hearing.
The Islanders have 15 games left and a tenuous hold on an Eastern Conference playoff berth. They might have to go the rest of the way without Simon, whose 6-foot-3, 220-pound frame provides an imposing presence on the ice.
“We’ll just talk to the league and see what happens,” said coach Ted Nolan, who like Simon is a member of the Ojibwa North American Indian tribe. “On something like that, you’re disappointed. It doesn’t matter who it is.”
Simon’s hit, which conjured memories of the shot Marty McSorley landed to the head of Donald Brashear seven years ago, flattened Hollweg with 6:31 remaining and left him motionless for several minutes in the Rangers’ zone.
While Hollweg recovered quickly, Simon likely will feel the sting of his actions for quite some time.
“It’s not easy to see a teammate lose his cool, and to have it happen with 6 minutes left in the game. It’s a tough one to swallow,” Islanders defenseman Brendan Witt said. “We were undisciplined, and it cost us.”
McSorley was suspended for the final 23 games in the 2000 season for knocking out Brashear with a swinging stick. The ban was extended until February 2001 by Bettman, and McSorley never played in the NHL again.
Todd 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 NHL commissioner Gary Bettman before the 2005-06 season.
“I think that’s just as bad as what Marty McSorley did to Brashear,” Rangers agitator Sean Avery said of Simon. “You can’t just two-hand a guy in the face with your stick.”
NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell, a former coach of the Rangers, recently handed down a three-game suspension to New Jersey’s Cam Janssen. Janssen landed a late hit last week on Toronto defenseman Tomas Kaberle, checking him headfirst into the boards.
“Let’s just see if Colin Campbell finally does something about this stuff and doesn’t give him three games like he gave that other meathead from New Jersey,” Avery said.
The Rangers made Simon and the Islanders pay right away when Petr Prucha scored the tiebreaking goal with 5:14 left, just 1:17 into the power play.
“The best retaliation is to score,” Hollweg said. “I couldn’t feel any better than when that puck went in.
“I feel good, we got the win,” he said. “I kind of lost my hearing for a bit after it happened. I might’ve been out for a second or two. The pain goes away when you get those two points.”