Captain Heart: Steve Simoes

250x250-Steve_SimoesAs 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.

(They really loved him in Laredo.)
(They really loved him in Laredo.)

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.

 

(Photo: Alison Papineau)
(Photo: Alison Papineau)

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.

 

(Photo: Alison Papineau)
(Photo: Alison Papineau)

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.

Steve Simoes: The Cornwall River Kings saga in his own words

The following is a complete unedited account from Cornwall River Kings captain, Steve Simoes.

Simoes has been with the team since it’s inception and has been the glue in keeping this team together from the inside. Without him, players would’ve upped and gone a long time ago. It’s a shame that it has come to this. Without further ado, your captain. – March Hockey
———————————————————————–

 

250x250-Steve_SimoesSo where do we go from here?
I have been around the game a few years and in this league since 2008. Never have I seen such drama and attempt for power as I have seen here in Cornwall. The problem with this team has always been people and their attempt of being “the main guy”. There were people who have been involved with this organization that only care about their own personal accolades and personal image of grandeur then the respect for the game.
In my years in this league, I have rarely seen my owner(s) and didn’t really want to see them. The person who usually owns the team is in the background running things and making sure things go well. However, here in Cornwall, we have had a nice exuberant owner who wore an Elvis costume once in a while and  even spotted in as a mascot at times (although paid all his bills – was present, but was led down a few wrong paths by a few wrong people); a group of three owners that had their own interior turmoil because of a power struggle within the group; a new owner this season, who used this platform as a way to bolster publicity and be in the spotlight in order to gain a seat in council and then a more recent owner who would have liked the spotlight but never had the opportunity.
When it was time to be known as the “head honcho”, everyone wanted their name and face in the paper, but when things turned sour, well, “please don’t publish my face and name”. Instead of biting off more than you can chew, maybe it would’ve been better to let it die. But how do you let it die, when a good portion of the population enjoys the hockey and the show?

The issues of this team have always been about power struggles.

 

In the first season we had a few members of the staff that believed he could do everything, from equipment to GM to coaching to office duties and so on. The guy behind the desk didn’t just want that job, he wanted to be the GM; the guy who did the equipment wasn’t happy with just that and thought he could be GM too. Anyone with a JOB or DUTY, wasn’t happy with their situation and always wanted what the other person had.

1297466522158_ORIGINALFor Christs sake, just do your JOB or DUTY. We are a team, from the big guy to the little guy.

There was rumours of potential investors, but all these potential investors came with a twist. They were either connected to one or the other guy who wanted to be GM or the “head honcho”.
SURPRISE…
Does that surprise any of you? Cornwall, please explain to me why people can’t just be proud of what their job is and can’t just do that job to the best of their ability, without always having the spotlight? For a town of hard working farmers, very humble blue collar workers and simple family oriented white collars, how can everything be so darn complicated?
I have unfortunately been privy to many conversations and situations since joining this team. Some conversations baffled me and made me scratch my head, but who am I to judge; it was not my money. A new owner comes in every year, with different ideas but the same issue arises. They’re trying to work IN THE BUSINESS INSTEAD OF ON THE BUSINESS. You should be upstairs and not standing behind the bench (which happened more often than it should have).

Lets be honest.

1297407761910_originalIt takes money to run a team in any league, and you can’t expect to spend like the Buffalo Sabres and have a Pittsburgh Penguins situation.

The intent this year was obvious from the get-go.

This was all to provide a political stepping stone for someone and the rest didn’t matter. I have never seen an owner take the microphone so many times at center ice, before a game, in my whole hockey career. In my 11 years pro and junior hockey, it has maybe happened 3 times (totalling this years total).

Then the polls close and there is a supposed sale. To whom? For how much? I don’t know, and usually wouldn’t care. Until checks start bouncing and money goes missing. Who the hell is telling the truth? How does this even happen? Can’t point fingers yet until the truth comes out. But just another chapter in this ridiculous drama that continues to tar the reputation of the team, the league and the people involved.

Last year was no better.

I know people like to point the finger at one owner in particular, but there were three; and two were more-so present than others. I know that there was a power struggle last season between the owners. One owner wanted more spotlight and attention toward his business and was upset that it was always the other owner who was leading the charge. But when it came time to pay the piper, that owner bowed out and scurried off to another city, leaving the total bill with the other two. The reality is what it is.

In the end, they sold their other business at a lucrative profit and left unpaid players, staff and invoices. But I do recall, in a meeting around this time of the year last season, one owner did say “Money is not a problem, we have the money”. Oh, my friend, your handshake means nothing and you lied again. SURPRISE… And in the end, a person I consider a friend, got had.

1297616301986_ORIGINALBut the fools in all this are the players. Yes the fans as well, but with all do respect, we are the ones out there taking a toll on our bodies and attemtping to provide some entertainment.

Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

Yes we are paid, and yes, some nights we are better than others but we are asked to play and create a form of entertainment, and then get compensated for it. Like trained elephants at a circus, we are there to provide a fun experience for the family and every hockey lover. I love to put on a show and play the sport I love. I am passionate about it and try to play the game I respect in the same fashion. But even the bears and elephants expect a peanut or two, to keep them going and provide an incentive to perform.

When there is such instability, turmoil and power struggles, and the peanut doesn’t get to the elephant, you cant expect the elephant to dance and play and do back flips. I made that mistake last season, in asking the players to continue to play without their full ration of peanuts. They trusted me because I vouched for certain people (including the league – who really does want success here), but in the end, half the peanuts were there and the entertainment value took a hit. So what am I to do this time?

I have always said things the way I see them and sometimes filtered certain things out of respect.
But I will not lie, be a hypocrite, and deceive people.
If I ask my team to go out there and play hard and don’t do it myself, then what kind of person does that make me? I care about winning. I care about my team and what it represents. My role has always been a grinding power forward that just does his JOB and DUTY, and I love that job.
I respect that job.
I embody that job.
No power struggle in my head, or with our team. If we all accept our job and duty, and stop trying to do someone else’s, we may just win and succeed. Until then, the promise of entertainment, without the peanut is tough. And for those that know me well, know that I don’t do this for the money (although it is nice to get compensated for what you do); I do it cause I love the game and this is quite the way to retire – maybe sooner rather than later.
In the end, worthy of a scene in the movie Dumb and Dumber – we may end up being like Lloyd Christmas, with a black Samsonite suitcase, full of I.O.U’s. “That’s as good as money sir, those are IOUs. Go ahead and add it up every cents accounted for.”
Fool me once…
Steve Simoes
10312804_691774120858669_2327199915385158448_n