Former National Hockey League player Chris Simon begins journey into the Spirit World – Anishinabek News

Chris Simon was a member of the 1996 Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche.

By Sam Laskaris

WAWA — Chico Ralf was hoping his summer plans this year would include a fishing trip to the Northern Ontario township of Wawa.

Ralf, who served as the president of the 2024 Little NHL tournament held earlier this month, said he had talked with Marvin Assinewai, a past president of the tourney, about visiting former National Hockey League player Chris Simon, a member of Michipicoten First Nation, in his hometown later this year.

“He loved fishing,” Ralf said of Simon, who brought the Stanley Cup home and took it fishing. “And I had talked to Marvin and said we should go up there and go fishing with him.”

With profound expressed sadness, that trip will not come to be as Simon began his journey back into the Spirit World on March 18. He was 52.

Ralf, a member of Wasauksing First Nation, said Simon’s sister called him the following morning to tell him of the death of the former pro, who finished his NHL career with 2,015 penalty minutes, 322 points in 864 games, and was a member of the 1996 Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche.

“He was one of my favourite hockey players,” Ralf said. “My wife and I always cheered him on.”

Besides Colorado, Simon suited up for seven other NHL clubs including the Washington Capitals, Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers, and Calgary Flames. Ralf said he had bought a Calgary Flames’ jersey with Simon’s name on the back.

Simon had been inducted into the Little NHL Hall of Fame during the 45th anniversary celebrations in 2016. He was inducted via the Alumni category as he had participated in the tournament during his youth, advanced to play hockey at a higher calibre, and was instrumental in advocating hockey development in their communities and continue to support participation in the Little NHL Tournament.

Meanwhile, another former pro player, Jason Simon (who was not related to Chris), said news of his passing was so sad.

“[He was] one guy that I idolized because he went on to do all the things I wanted to do,” said Jason Simon, a member of Aamjiwnaang First Nation in southwestern Ontario, who played five NHL games, but had a lengthy pro career playing for about two dozen minor pro squads. “[He] fought all the toughest heavyweights in the league, scored big goals, grew his hair long. Was feared by many, but had a heart of gold, and looked after his mates.”

Jason Simon said he was frequently asked if he was related to Chris Simon.

“My answer for many years was ‘No, we’re just best friends,’” he said. “Then I had the conversation with Chris five years ago and funny, everyone asked him if we were related.”

Jason Simon, who is now a motivational speaker, recalled another hilarious incident. During one of his presentations, an older gentleman approached him and said, “Hey, you’re not Chris Simon…[He was] very disappointed. I laughed and said I was so sorry.”

In a previous 1995 interview, the season where he went on to win the Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche, Chris Simon stated, “I would never accept just being a one-dimensional player. I don’t ever want to just be a fighter. I think it would be a boring life just to come out and fight every night. You have to earn your respect and earn your place out on the ice. The first few years, I was in the fighting department, but now I’m getting a chance to play a lot more.” He accomplished that. Today, he is remembered as more than a hockey player, he is respected as a multi-dimensional person who cared for youth, community, family, and beyond.

Former NHLer Reggie Leach also has fond memories of Simon.

“He was a great role model for our First Nation youth,” said Leach, who lives in Aundeck Omni Kaning First Nation. “He was very interested in our youth all of the time.”

Leach added whenever Simon did attend the Little NHL tourney, he would venture into various dressing rooms to chat with young players.

Chris Simon joined the Anishinabek Nation 7th Generation Charity in 2014 to share stories, encouragement, and laughter with participants of the tournament. On right: Jason Restoule, Anishinabek Nation 7th Generation Charity Manager. – Photo supplied

Beyond hockey, Chris Simon gave back to and supported Anishinaabe communities and initiatives in many ways, including charities such as the Anishinabek Nation 7th Generation Charity, where he joined Reggie Leach and participants of the 16th Annual Anishinabek Veterans Memorial Golf Tournament to share stories, encouragement, and laughter.

“We’re all going to miss him,” Leach said.

A sacred fire has been lit at the Sacred Fire Teepee in Michipicoten First Nation to help Chris on his journey into the Spirit World and will go until March 22. The Simon family welcomes the community to come together to place some Semaa and say some prayers, and share memories. A feast will be held on Friday at 2 p.m., and food items for feast will be welcome.

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