Hockey is a business. I get that, really I do. Players come, players go, it is the nature of the beast. I am fine with that….most of the time. There have been some trades that cut deep. Rick Tocchet. Danny Briere. And yes, I know that Briere was a compliance buy out, not a trade, but you get the idea. There are players that I think define being a Flyer, and Tocchet and Briere are two of those players. And then there is Simmer.
On that trade deadline, I sat at my desk at work, furiously refreshing Twitter until the deadline passed. I was so relieved when the clock told me Simmer was staying a Flyer. Then came the announcement, that the Flyers had traded Wayne Simmonds to Nashville. I was crushed. Two years later, and this loss still stings.
I have a coworker that lives in Toronto and is, poor guy, a Maple Leafs fan. I find myself engaging him in conversation to get information on Simmer. Oh, and to try to make him understand what GOOD hockey is, but I would think that ship has sailed. So why does that trade hurt, deep down, when so many others didn’t?
Most Flyers fans were more upset with what the team gave up to get Wayne Simmonds, namely Mike Richards, who was Captain of the team at the time of the trade. I had no emotional attachment to Richards, and felt that while he was a fine player, he was not a good leader for the team. When Chris Pronger came on board, it was obvious that he was a leader, and perhaps there was one Captain too many in the locker room.
Knowing all that Mike Richards dealt with, the injuries, the addiction to narcotics to continue playing through pain, the internal struggles, I do regret not supporting him more during his tenure in Philadelphia. However; I still believe that Wayne Simmonds was born to be a Flyer, destined to wear the orange and black. I am unsure about other hockey cities, but in Philadelphia, wearing that sweater does not make you a Flyer. Being a Flyer is a way of life, and there are players that may be in different sweaters during their careers, but they will remain a Flyer. I could be wrong, but I will always believe that Mike Richards is not one of those players. Wayne Simmonds is.
My intention today was to write about the event that happened forty five years ago today; the Flyers chasing the Soviet Red Army team off the Spectrum Ice. What was supposed to be an exhibition game became a typical Broad Street Bullies game. Checks, elbows, sticks all flew, and the Soviets left the ice. They returned to face their only loss in the series after Ed Snider threatened to withhold the only check that mattered to them, their paycheck.
Why am I waxing nostalgic about this game, in the middle of a love letter to Wayne Simmonds? Because that team, the team that chased the Soviets, they were FLYERS. They stood up to a machine, beat them not only on the scoreboard, but beat them down, and Wayne Simmonds would have been all in on that effort. He would not have cared that the Soviets were the best team in the world; that no other NHL team had beaten them. He would have been on that ice, and given everything he had in the effort to win that game. For Philadelphia; his team mates, the fans. That, in my eyes, defines being a Flyer.
He may be nearing the end of his playing days, but Simmer has the heart of a warrior. There was a lot of talk, at the end of the playoffs last year about what the Flyers were missing, and I think you know my opinion there.
So…..Dear Toronto Maple Leafs Fans,
Please take good care of Wayne Simmonds. He may be wearing a Maple Leafs sweater this year, but he is, and always will be, a Flyer. We will want him back, thanks.
Photo credit: Sportsnet CA (Photo was taken after Simmonds scored a goal…with his face, see below video)