Facing another suspension, Simon benched by Islanders

Updated: December 18, 2007, 10:43 AM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Chris Simon took a paid leave from the New York Islanders on Monday, agreeing with the team that he needed time away from hockey following his latest penalty for attempting to injure an opponent.

Simon missed the first five games of this season while completing a 25-game ban -- his sixth NHL suspension -- meted out in March. He could be in line for another long penalty after he took down and stepped on Pittsburgh's Jarkko Ruutu last weekend.

"The actions of Chris Simon on Saturday do not reflect what the New York Islanders stand for," team owner Charles Wang said in a statement. "They were reckless, potentially dangerous and against our team concept of grit, character and heart.

"We know Chris as a respected teammate and as a gracious man away from the playing surface and believe strongly that he has earned our continued support. The Islanders are going to provide some time for Chris away from the team and give him the counseling he needs and the compassion he deserves. When Chris is completely ready, he will be a member of our team again," Wang said.

Simon met with Wang, general manager Garth Snow and coach Ted Nolan during practice Monday and they agreed the 35-year-old left winger should seek help. That group then spoke with captains Bill Guerin, Mike Sillinger and Brendan Witt and goalie Rick DiPietro before a team meeting.

"We discussed the measures we have to take," Nolan said. "Chris is very remorseful and very sorry for his actions. As an organization, we don't condone it. We don't appreciate the thing he did. On the flip side, we have to have some compassion, some understanding and some support."

At no point did the Islanders consider releasing Simon. The team didn't reveal what kind of counseling he would receive.

"That is one of the easiest things people do in life -- when there's a problem, you get rid of the problem and pretend it doesn't exist," Nolan said. "We're much more compassionate than that.

"Chris is an outstanding individual that needs some support," he said.

Simon is scheduled to have a hearing with NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell on Tuesday in Toronto.

Late in New York's loss to the Penguins, with the Islanders trailing 3-2, Simon drew a match penalty when he pulled out Ruutu's leg with his, sending the forward to his knees between the team benches. Simon then stepped on the back of Ruutu's leg with his skate.

Simon was ejected and the Islanders were a man short for all but the final 54 seconds of the loss.

"There is no excuse for my actions ... and I apologize to everyone involved," he said in a statement. "The Islanders and I agree that the right thing to do is for me to take some time away from the team.

"I have enjoyed a long career achieving my dream of being a player in the National Hockey League and I'm proud of my accomplishments. But I acknowledge that time and assistance is needed before I return to the game," he said.

The Islanders, who host Buffalo on Wednesday, recalled forward Blake Comeau from AHL Bridgeport.

Simon also apologized last season after he retaliated for a hit from Ryan Hollweg by striking the New York Rangers forward in the face and neck with a two-handed stick swing.

The forward was suspended for the rest of the regular season and the playoffs, forced to serve a minimum of 25 games. He missed the remaining five games before the postseason and sat out New York's five-game playoff loss to Buffalo.

Had the Islanders advanced, Simon would have been ineligible to play even if the total games exceeded 25. That wasn't the case, and Simon missed the first five games this season. That ban was the longest in NHL history in terms of games, matched by Philadelphia's Jesse Boulerice this season.

Despite the ban, the Islanders signed Simon to a one-year deal this summer for $475,000 and included another $325,000 in potential bonuses.

"Chris is a good guy, he's a great teammate, he's a good friend who did something wrong," Guerin said. "He just needs a little time and a little support from his family and friends and his teammates.

"He understands what he did, we all do. There'll be consequences, and that's not for us to decide, but we're here to support him and to make sure things get straightened out," Guerin said.

Simon had 10 goals and 17 assists in 67 games last season but managed only one goal and two assists in 26 games this season -- his 15th in the NHL. He has 51 penalty minutes.

He received a match penalty last season for attempt to injure when he got up after being crunched into the boards by Hollweg on March 8.

Simon played his final season of junior hockey under Nolan with Sault Ste. Marie of the Ontario Hockey League in 1991-92. Nolan, who like Simon is a member of the First Nation Ojibwa tribe, gave Simon assistance during his troubles with alcohol.

Simon joined the Islanders shortly after Nolan became coach in 2006.

"He doesn't owe me nothing," Nolan said. "You look back at things he overcame and how he got to where he is. That is one of the most positive things that ever happened to anybody in society and life."

Simon has been suspended five 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 2000 playoffs, Simon, then with Washington, sat out Game 2 after he crosschecked Penguins defenseman Peter Popovic across the throat in the opener.

In April 2001, Simon drew a two-game ban for elbowing Anders Eriksson of Florida. He was given a pair of two-game suspensions in 2004 -- for crosschecking Tampa Bay's Ruslan Fedotenko and then jumping on him and punching him and also for kneeing Dallas defenseman Sergei Zubov. Fedotenko and Simon are now Islanders teammates.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press