The Wayne train has made its final stop.
After 15 hard-nosed NHL seasons in which he filled the net and threw plenty of punches, Wayne Simmonds called time on his playing career.
The 35-year-old spoke with The Canadian Press Friday ahead of the Hockey Diversity Alliance’s first-ever WinterFest event scheduled for Feb. 3 in Toronto.
With three children under the age of five – his wife, Crystal, gave birth to the couple’s first son two months ago – he has a lot on his plate.
Getting another chance in the NHL is not on the long list of priorities.
“I haven’t officially announced my retirement, but I’m done,” said Simmonds, who played his final three seasons with the Maple Leafs. “I had a great career. It was the best time of my life.
“Right now is family time.”
Prime power forward
Simmonds recorded 263 goals, 526 points and 1,313 penalty minutes in 1,037 games with six teams. He added 22 points (eight goals, 14 assists) and 122 penalty minutes in 53 playoff appearances.
The Scarborough, Ontario native played his first three seasons with the Los Angeles Kings after being selected in the second round of the 2007 NHL Draft, but made his mark in eight seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers.
One of the best power forwards in the league during this era, Simmonds scored 28 or more goals five times, including a career-high 32 in 2015-16. Never afraid to drop the gloves, the lethal winger also took a career-high 147 penalty minutes that season.
Simmonds then had short stints with Nashville, Buffalo and New Jersey before signing with Toronto ahead of the pandemic-shortened 2020-21 campaign.
“It’s good to be able to play at home,” he said. “It was nice to be able to see my two little girls watching me play. They’re from Toronto, they were born in Toronto, they’re going to grow up in Toronto.”
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Simmonds, however, would have liked things to go differently on the ice. He played 72 times in 2021-22, but played in just 18 games last season during a difficult year that included being placed on waivers.
“Game-wise, it wasn’t what I hoped for,” said Simmonds, who had 27 points and 190 penalty minutes in 128 games with Toronto. “At the same time, I am always grateful to the organization for allowing me to wear the Maple Leaf.
The HDA, which is not affiliated with the NHL, is hosting WinterFest at Toronto’s Trinity Bellwoods on Feb. 3 to highlight “the importance of diversity and inclusion in hockey.”
Timed to coincide with the league’s all-star festivities in the city, the event is expected to include a celebrity hockey game, youth competitions and a skills demonstration.
“It’s going to be something special,” said Simmonds, a founding member of the HDA. “We want to show what we’ve been able to do over the last three years. We want to show the unconventional ways that we’ve been able to reach the communities that we’ve touched.”
Looking back on what will turn out to be his final NHL season, Simmonds said he feels for Leafs enforcer Ryan Reaves, who signed a three-year contract this summer but has been used with parsimony.
“You want nothing more than to play well and help the guys,” he said. “If you don’t do that, you feel a little lost. (Reaves) had a little bit of a rough patch at the start of the season, but I don’t think he had too many opportunities to be able to do that. what he can do.
Simmonds, however, still remembers his time with the Leafs fondly. Although he didn’t play in last spring’s playoffs, he was at Amalie Arena when John Tavares scored the game-winning goal in overtime in Game 6 against the Tampa Bay Lightning to earn Toronto’s first victory in the series since 2004.
The veteran forward walked down the hall past reporters on his way to celebrate with his teammates that evening.
“Being there with the guys in the locker room and feeling what they feel – the pressure – and finally being able to get through the first round, it’s pretty special,” Simmonds said. “It’s on them to go a little further every year and win a Stanley Cup.
“Or winning a round won’t mean much.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published January 26, 2024.