In an ironic twist, Chris Simon was part of a "feel good" story on HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel. The segment was about Islanders coach Ted Nolan, and his relationship with Simon was part of that story. Nolan is full-blood First Nation Ojibwa and first met Chris Simon, who is half-Ojibwa while coaching the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in 1991. Simon was a rambunctious kid who had problems with discipline and with alcohol. Nolan himself had had alcohol problems as a kid, and took Simon under his wing. He got Simon to settle down, and that was a defining moment in Simon's career, but soon Nolan and Simon would part ways.
Nolan became an assistant coach with the Whalers, then a head coaching job with the Sabres. He walked away from his job with the Sabres when he was insulted by a one-year contract extension after winning the division title in 1997. He was out of hockey entirely for ten years, turning down occasional offers, most notably with the Lightning.
Somehow, Nolan found his way back into a head coaching job with the Islanders this season, and one of the first things he wanted to do was to get Chris Simon. The two were reunited. This is the spin that the HBO story took. The touchy-feely element.
This story was obviously filmed, and first aired before the "Simon incident", because it mentioned nothing of it. In fact, the story said that Simon was repaying Nolan for his faith in him by playing well and playing in every game this season.
After the decision was handed down, obviously people began to debate. Some say it's way too harsh, some say it's way too soft. He got exactly what I expected him to get, but I actually think it might be a bit too soft. Given his track record, which includes a history of suspensions stemming from stick fouls, the book had to be thrown at him. The fact that it wasn't premeditated and the fact that Hollweg wasn't seriously injured should not be considered as mitigating factors. I've said that before, and I'll stand by it.
One thing that puzzles me is what Simon had to say yesterday. Brett Hull already chimed in on this, and I'm with him. Simon said, in part of a prepared statement:
I want to apologize to Ryan Hollweg. I was grateful to learn that Ryan is okay and that he returned to the game. My hope is to reach out to him in the near future.
Geez, Chris. How hard is it to pick up the phone? I know the Islanders doctors have invented those "concussion symptoms" to try to soften this whole thing, but even if your head's a little cloudy, you could at least make a few phone calls. Don't be Brooks Orpik and make the call three months down the road. Do it now. Ted Nolan will tell you that a written statement on the Islanders website isn't good enough. Go talk to him about this. Then go talk to Ryan Hollweg.