Simon broke his previous mark of 25 games — or rather league disciplinarian Colin Campbell did — Wednesday, by handing down a 30-game break to the troubled New York Islanders forward.
“(NHL executive) Mike Murphy and I were talking about that fact — has he given up his right or his privilege to play in the National Hockey League?” Campbell said Wednesday. “Not lifetime, we never considered lifetime .”
Simon had already agreed to take some time away from the game and seek counselling, after he stomped on the leg of Pittsburgh’s Jarkko Ruutu on Saturday. He missed the first five matches of this season while completing a 25-game ban handed out in March for a stick swinging incident. At the time it was the longest forced hiatus in NHL history.
This is the seventh time in Simon’s career that he has been suspended and the 35-year-old took a paid leave from the Islanders on Monday, agreeing with the team that he needed time away from hockey. The suspension will cost him $300,000 in salary.
“Since Saturday night, the focus of the New York Islanders has been on Chris Simon the person, not him as a player or on his place in our lineup,” Isles GM Garth Snow said in a statement Wednesday. “As we announced on Monday, the Islanders are going to provide Chris the time and support that he needs for counselling. For Chris right now, hockey must be secondary to the priority of taking care of himself.
“Chris has played 15 seasons in the National Hockey League, has won a Stanley Cup and just as importantly has won the respect of his teammates. He is an Islander, deserves our compassion, and we ask that all Islanders fans join us in supporting Chris every step of the way.”
The incident occurred late in New York’s loss to the Penguins with the Islanders trailing 3-2. Simon was tossed from the game when he took Ruutu to the ground near the team benches and stepped on the back of Ruutu’s leg with his skate.
“There is no excuse for my actions … and I apologize to everyone involved,” Simon said Monday in a statement following the game. “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.”
Last season a vicious two-handed swing to the face of the New York Rangers‘ Ryan Hollweg caused Simon to miss the rest of the regular season and playoffs, but the Islanders still 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,” said Islanders captain Bill Guerin. “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.”
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. He has 51 penalty minutes.
Previous to the Hollweg incident, 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 cross-checked Penguins defenceman Peter Popovic across the throat in the opener.
“He’s very contrite and very apologetic,” Campbell said in describing Simon’s demeanour during the hearings. “And very quiet, almost to the point where he’s somewhat humiliated by what he’s done himself. And that’s probably the disheartening fact to this.”
NHL’s Longest Suspensions:
30 games — Chris Simon, New York Islanders, Dec. 19, 2007, for slamming his skate into the foot of Pittsburgh Penguins forward Jarkko Ruutu.
25 games — Jesse Boulerice, Philadelphia, Oct. 12, 2007, for cross-checking Vancouver centre Ryan Kesler across the face in a game on Oct. 10.
25 games — Chris Simon, New York Islanders, March 11, 2007, for the rest of the regular season (15 games) and playoffs for his two-handed stick attack to the face of New York Rangers forward Ryan Hollweg. Since Islanders played only five playoff games, suspension extended to first five games of 2007-08.
23 games — Marty McSorley, Boston, Feb. 2000, for knocking out Vancouver’s Donald Brashear with a stick-swinging hit. On Nov. 7, 2000, the suspension was extended by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman to Feb. 20, 2001.
23 games — Gordie Dwyer, Tampa Bay, Sept. 19, 2000, for abusing officials and coming out of the penalty box to fight in an exhibition game against Washington.
21 games — Dale Hunter, Washington, May 1993, for a blindside check of Pierre Turgeon of the N.Y. Islanders after a goal in a playoff game.
20 games — Steve Downie, Philadelphia, Sept. 28, 2007, for leaving his feet to deliver a deliberate hit to the head Ottawa forward Dean McAmmond in a pre-season game Sept. 25.
20 games — Todd Bertuzzi, Vancouver, March 11, 2004, for his sucker-punch of Colorado forward Steve Moore on March 8. Bertuzzi’s suspension was for 13 regular season games, plus playoffs. Bertuzzi was reinstated 17 months later, after the year-long lockout.
20 games — Tom Lysiak, Chicago, Oct. 1983, for intentionally tripping a linesman.
20 games — Brad May, Phoenix, Nov. 15, 2000, for hitting Columbus’ Steve Heinze on the nose with his stick in a game on Nov. 11.
16 games — Eddie Shore, Boston, 1933, for hitting Toronto’s Ace Bailey over the head with his stick.
15 games — (3 regular-season, 12 playoff games) Maurice Richard, Montreal, March 1955, for levelling linesman Cliff Thompson during a scuffle with Boston’s Hal Laycoe.
15 games — Wilf Paiement, Colorado, Oct. 1978, for swinging his stick and hitting Detroit’s Dennis Polonich in the face.
15 games — Dave Brown, Philadelphia, Nov. 1987, for cross-checking Tomas Sandstrom of the New York Rangers across the face and breaking his jaw.
15 games — Tony Granato, Los Angeles, Feb. 1994, for slashing Pittsburgh’s Neil Wilkinson.
13 games (30 days) — Ted Green, Boston, Sept. 1969, for his stick-swinging incident with Wayne Maki of St. Louis. Green to serve after he was physically fit to play. Maki also received a 30-day suspension.
13 games — Dave Manson, Chicago, Dec. 1989, after coming back onto the ice to rejoin a fight against Toronto. Manson received three games for diving onto linesman Ron Finn and 10 for coming back onto the ice to rejoin a fight.
13 games — Andre Roy, Tampa Bay, for leaving the penalty box and physically abusing an official while trying to engage players in the New York Rangers penalty box in April, 2002.
12 games — Ron Hextall, Philadelphia, 1989, for attacking Montreal defenceman Chris Chelios in a playoff game.
12 games — David Shaw, N.Y. Rangers, Oct. 1988, for slashing Pittsburgh centre Mario Lemieux.
12 games — Matt Johnson, Los Angeles, Nov. 1998, for punching New York Rangers defenceman Jeff Beukeboom in the head.
12 games — Brantt Myhres, San Jose Sharks, Feb. 1999 for leaving the bench to attack Los Angeles’ Mattias Norstrom.