Simon’s career says wall of famer
One of the most decorated players ever to wear the uniform of the Niagara Falls Thunder is one of five new inductees into the Niagara Falls Sports Wall of Fame.
Joining the wall this Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Gale Centre is 47-year-old Toronto native Todd Simon. The former Buffalo Sabres draft pick recorded back-to-back 50-goal seasons in the Ontario Hockey League. In his final 1991-92 season, he recorded 53 goals and 146 points to win the Eddie Powers Memorial Trophy as the league scoring champion and the Red Tilson Trophy as the OHL’s most outstanding player. He was also named an OHL and Canadian Junior Hockey First Team All-Star at the conclusion of the season.
“I am absolutely thrilled,” Simon said. “It is pretty exciting news. Niagara Falls has been my home for 30 years and it’s a great achievement for all the things that I have done in my career.”
Niagara Falls has truly become Simon’s home.
“When I was playing in Europe, we needed a place to come back to and call home and I didn’t want to move to Toronto and raise my kids there,” he said. “I like a small city where I don’t have to worry about traffic and getting around rink to rink is easy for me.
“And the people here I have known for 30 years. I have got more friends here than I probably have back home. The people are great and it is a great city to live in.”
Simon is the owner of Todd Simon Hockey and also serves as the Niagara Falls Minor Hockey Association’s coordinator of player development and a coaching mentor.
“I go on the ice with the A and AA teams of all ages and make sure the coaches are running the right practices and right drills,” he said. “We are here to develop kids and we want to make sure we are heading in the right direction.”
Simon’s hockey direction started with the Toronto Young Nationals and the Don Mills Flyers before joining the Thunder.
“Being drafted into junior A was my goal playing minor hockey and I achieved that,” he said. “The success I had in junior hockey was kind of surprising to me and probably to a lot of other people.”
He was selected in the ninth round of the 1992 NHL draft by the Sabres, signed a three-year contract and was assigned to the American Hockey League’s Rochester Americans. He ended up playing 15 regular season games and five playoff games for the Sabres .
“Being drafted into the NHL was just the cream of the crop right there,” he said. “It was that journey and that first game I got to play in the NHL were really the highlights of my career.”
His first NHL game was against Tampa Bay. He was called up to replace an injured Pat LaFontaine.
“It was as nerve-wracking as can be, but very exciting at the same time.”
That short stint with the Sabres would end up representing his entire NHL career.
“For me, I don’t think I really got a fair shot in Buffalo,” he said. “I know at that time they had hall of fame guys at centre ahead of me and it was tough to crack that lineup.
“It was old school hockey back then and older veteran guys in front of me and it was disappointing that I didn’t get a chance to show what I could do or get a chance to crack into the NHL with another team.”
After one more season with the Rochester Americans where he scored 25 goals and 90 points in 69 games, Simon spend five seasons in the International Hockey League. He then headed to Germany for the 2000-01 season and skated seven seasons in Germany. He retired following the 2007-08 season with Milan in the Italian A league.
“I had had enough. I was mid-30s at the time and I had played 16 years,” he said. “It was getting hard on the family, my kids were growing up and I didn’t want to move them around from school to school.
“We had a home here and it was time to call it a career and move on to my next journey.”
He left hockey with few regrets.
“I could have probably played a few more years, but again it was too hard with the family and having to move around.”
As a hockey development person, Simon has seen massive changes in the sport of hockey.
“The game has changed, the athletes have changed, everything has changed with all sports,” he said. “You have bigger, faster and stronger athletes and the game is faster.”
That being said, Simon says the game isn’t as physical as it used to be.
“You don’t have to worry so much about the fighting and all that stuff,” he said. “It is more of a skill game now and it is good to see.”
Simon is a strong proponent of hockey players participating in other sports and not training year-round in hockey.
“I grew up playing soccer in the summer and I never went on the ice in the summer at all,” he said. “I loved soccer, I loved playing other sports and it probably made me a better hockey player and a better athlete using different muscles and having different teammates.
“A multi-sport athlete is better than a one-sport athlete.”
Also being inducted into the Niagara Falls Sports Wall of Fame Sunday are Ray Barkwill, David Conte, Mike MacGillivray and Larry Gardner.