As another LNAH season wraps up for the Cornwall River Kings, everyone can take a step back from all the dramatics that unfolded this year and take a breath of relaxation. The ups and downs of the craziness took its toll on the mighty Lion King that blazes the crest on the white, red and blue sweaters. From fans, players, and those close to the team itself, the frustration was hard. The hardest hit could have possibly been the captain, Steve Simoes.
For the past three years, Simoes has dedicated everything he’s got to supporting professional hockey in Cornwall. He knows it can strive with the right people. From leading the team onto the ice night in and night out, to becoming a bench boss while nursing an injured shoulder the second year, he lived and breathed the game of hockey.
Standing at a solid 6’2, the leftie started off with a stint of 55 games over two years in Major Junior. Split between the Beauport Harfangs and the Quebec Remparts. Despite the short tenure, valuable lessons were learned in Beaufort under head coach Alain Vingeault and then with Atlanta/Calgary Flames legend Guy Chouinard.
I suppose playing with Simon Gagne didn’t hurt either.
After collecting 193 penalty minutes down in Junior A with the Antigonish Bulldogs, Simoes enrolled at the University of Ottawa and managed to become a point a game player. Now here’s where the fun starts. It’s time to turn professional.
The modern version of the Central Hockey League was founded in 1992 by Ray Miron. If that name sounds familiar to you it’s because he was born and raised in Cornwall. Miron spent some time as an executive for the Toronto Maple Leafs and was General Manager for the Colorado Rockies. Before his foray into professional hockey, Miron managed the Cornwall Community Arena for 10 years while coaching and managing several Cornwall teams.
The CHL started with six teams all located in the southern United States. As other leagues began folding, Miron welcomed them into the mix. Just like any start up league, things could get a little bit feisty. In order to sell the game to southern fans, fighting became an integral part of the play.
Laredo, Texas, a city of close to 240,000 people lies on the on the border of Texas and Mexico. Not exactly what you would call a hockey hot bed but the league had saw success in Southern Texas before. It was no brainer when Laredo was awarded its first professional franchise.
Simoes picked up his first professional contract during the second season of the Laredo Bucks franchise. What a time to join them too. Simoes played an integral part of that important season having 34 points in 58 games and coming second in terms of penalty minutes with 116. The fans of Laredo loved the gritty style of hockey and would come close to selling out almost every night, especially in the playoffs. The arena held 8,000 and a little more than 6,500 people would show up. Oh, and I forgot. Simoes hoisted the Ray Miron President’s Cup as the Laredo Bucks, in just their second year of existence, won the CHL championship.
After five solid seasons in Laredo, two President’s Cups under his belt and a quick stint with the Nottingham Panthers in England, Simoes brought his play closer to home. With the self-proclaimed “toughest league in the world”, Simoes would leave his mark on an unsuspecting town desperate for hockey.
Simoes captained the Cornwall River Kings since its existence. During his tenure, he’s taken on many roles that most captains or hell, even players wouldn’t do. A shoulder injury didn’t stop him from joining the coaching staff in the River Kings sophomore year and when money went the way of the do-do bird, he rallied the troops and convinced them to play through the second half of the season without a dime to their name. Let’s not forget about that fateful night when Dannick Lessard was shot outside a Quebec nightclub; Simoes went around and collected donations for him.
He always took time out for the fans and was always straight up honest about what was going on behind the scenes during this past rollercoaster of a season. He let us know how both he and the players felt in a long tirade of a blog post. While ownership was up in the air and talk of the team being sold and moved out of town arose Simoes night in and night out gave the fans hope. Hell, have you ever seen a captain take the mic at the beginning of the game and apologize for having a horrible team? Well, that happened.
Out of the few games I went to this year, Simoes was the only guy on the ice that you could tell played with his heart on his sleeve. He wasn’t afraid to get dirty, deliver checks, or get into a fight or two to help out the crest on the front on his jersey. He was never lazy and you could tell he worked hard just by some of the pictures that floated through social media on game night. If we had more players like him on our roster, Cornwall would be unstoppable.
Steve Simoes is just as passionate about hockey as you and I. I could go on to list the things that we have all seen or heard him do. Nothing but a class act in and out, the River Kings are going to miss his presence tremendously; not only on the ice, but in the locker room as well.
Here is to a great career Simmer; thanks for the memories.