'A heart of gold': Former NHL enforcer Chris Simon dead at age 52

Chris Simon, once one of hockey's most feared enforcers, has died.

He was 52.

The NHL Players' Association confirmed the news via Simon's family that he died Monday night. The cause of death wasn't provided.

The six-foot-three, 232-pound forward from Wawa, Ont., compiled 1,824 penalty minutes in 782 games with the Quebec Nordiques/Colorado Avalanche, Washington Capitals, Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers, Calgary Flames, New York Islanders and Minnesota Wild.

The NHLPA said in an email Tuesday confirming Simon's death that "his children and family are grieving the sudden loss of their father, son, brother, friend and teammate."

Ted Nolan, who coached and mentored Simon with the Ontario Hockey League's Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, called it a "very tough day."

"If I was starting a team, Chris would be my first pick," Nolan, who also coached Simon in the NHL with the Islanders, said in a text message.

"Size, skill, talent, and above all, a heart of gold."

Simon also wasn't without controversy.

The NHL suspended him eight times during his career for a total of 65 games. Simon was hit with a 25-game ban when he was with the Islanders for a cross-check to the face of New York Rangers forward Ryan Hollweg in March 2007.

He was then forced to sit 30 games for stomping on the leg of Pittsburgh Penguins winger Jarkko Ruutu in December of the same year.

Simon, who was drafted in the second round by the Philadelphia Flyers in 1990 and shipped to Quebec as part of the Eric Lindros trade, won the Stanley Cup with Colorado in 1996 before making the final with Washington in 1998 and Calgary in 2004.

Known for his fists in an era when staged fights and intimidation were big parts of NHL life, he could also put the puck in the net.

Simon, who was of Ojibwa heritage and proud of his Indigenous roots, registered 144 goals, including a career-high 29 with Washington in 1999-00, to go along with 161 assists for 305 points.

He added 10 goals, 17 points and 191 penalty minutes in 75 playoff contests.

The NHL mentioned his ferocity as a player in a statement Tuesday evening.

“The National Hockey League mourns the passing of Chris Simon, who played in more than 800 NHL games over 15 seasons. A fierce competitor and teammate, Simon won the Stanley Cup with Colorado in 1996 and reached the 1998 Stanley Cup final with Washington as well as the 2004 Stanley Cup final with Calgary," the statement read.

“Our sincere condolences go out to his family, friends and former teammates.”

Simon played parts of five seasons in the Russian-based Kontinental Hockey League after his final NHL stop with Minnesota in 2007-08.

Ex-teammates took to X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, as news of his death spread Tuesday.

"An intimidating guy on the ice … hell of a player as well," posted Mike Commodore, who played with Simon in Calgary. "He couldn't have been nicer to me. RIP Chris. You will be missed."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 19, 2024.

The Canadian Press